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Haunting melodies: Specific memories distort beat perception.

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How much does specific previous experience shape immediate perception? Top-down perceptual inference occurs in ambiguous situations. However, similarity-based accounts such as exemplar theory suggest that similar memories resonate with the percept, predicting that detailed previous experiences can shape perception even when bottom-up cues are unambiguous. The current study tests whether specific musical memories influence beat perception only under ambiguity, or more pervasively-that is, even when clear bottom-up beat cues are present. Listeners were exposed to 16 melodies, half in one meter, half in another. Later, each listener's perception of a specific melody's beat pattern was tested when that melody occurred in either its original meter or another meter. Ratings of metrical probes were influenced not only by fit with the current (test) meter, but also by fit with the meter previously experienced with that melody. Findings suggest that perception is routinely influenced by detailed top-down perceptual imagery.

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This item is under embargo until June 22, 2023.