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Journal Article

The development of rhythmic categories as revealed through an iterative production task


Jacoby,  Nori       
Research Group Computational Auditory Perception, Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, Max Planck Society;

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Nave, K., Carrillo, C., Jacoby, N., Trainor, L., & Hannon, E. (2023). The development of rhythmic categories as revealed through an iterative production task. Cognition, 242: 105634. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2023.105634.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-000D-FEB4-A
Both humans and non-humans (e.g. birds and primates) preferentially produce and perceive auditory rhythms with simple integer ratios. In addition, these preferences (biases) tend to reflect specific integer-ratio rhythms that are common to one's cultural listening experience. To better understand the developmental trajectory of these biases, we estimated children's rhythm biases across the entire rhythm production space of simple (e.g., ratios of 1, 2, and 3) three-interval rhythms. North American children aged 6–11 years completed an iterative rhythm production task, in which they attempted to tap in synchrony with repeating three-interval rhythms chosen randomly from the space. For each rhythm, the child's produced rhythm was presented back to them as the stimulus, and over the course of 5 such iterations we used their final reproductions to estimate their rhythmic biases or priors. Results suggest that regardless of the initial rhythm, after 5 iterations, children's tapping converged on rhythms with (nearly) simple integer ratios, indicating that, like adults, their rhythmic priors consist of rhythms with simple-integer ratios. Furthermore, the relative weights (or prominence of different rhythmic priors) observed in children were highly correlated with those of adults. However, we also observed some age-related changes, especially for the ratio types that vary most across cultures. In an additional rhythm perception task, children were better at detecting rhythmic disruptions to a culturally familiar rhythm (in 4/4 m with 2:1:1 ratio pattern) than to a culturally unfamiliar rhythm (7/8 m with 3:2:2 ratios), and performance in this task was correlated with tapping variability in the iterative task. Taken together, our findings provide evidence that children as young as 6-years-old exhibit simple integer-ratio categorical rhythm priors in their rhythm production that closely resemble those of adults in the same culture.