Incidental Learning of Melodic Structure of North Indian Music

Cognitive Science 41 (5):1299-1327 (2017)
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Musical knowledge is largely implicit. It is acquired without awareness of its complex rules, through interaction with a large number of samples during musical enculturation. Whereas several studies explored implicit learning of mostly abstract and less ecologically valid features of Western music, very little work has been done with respect to ecologically valid stimuli as well as non-Western music. The present study investigated implicit learning of modal melodic features in North Indian classical music in a realistic and ecologically valid way. It employed a cross-grammar design, using melodic materials from two modes that use the same scale. Findings indicated that Western participants unfamiliar with Indian music incidentally learned to identify distinctive features of each mode. Confidence ratings suggest that participants' performance was consistently correlated with confidence, indicating that they became aware of whether they were right in their responses; that is, they possessed explicit judgment knowledge. Altogether our findings show incidental learning in a realistic ecologically valid context during only a very short exposure, they provide evidence that incidental learning constitutes a powerful mechanism that plays a fundamental role in musical acquisition.



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