The effects of context and musical training on auditory temporal-interval discrimination

Karen Banai, Shirley Fisher, Ron Ganot

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Non sensory factors such as stimulus context and musical experience are known to influence auditory frequency discrimination, but whether the context effect extends to auditory temporal processing remains unknown. Whether individual experiences such as musical training alter the context effect is also unknown. The goal of the present study was therefore to investigate the effects of stimulus context and musical experience on auditory temporal-interval discrimination. In experiment 1, temporal-interval discrimination was compared between fixed context conditions in which a single base temporal interval was presented repeatedly across all trials and variable context conditions in which one of two base intervals was randomly presented on each trial. Discrimination was significantly better in the fixed than in the variable context conditions. In experiment 2 temporal discrimination thresholds of musicians and non-musicians were compared across 3 conditions: a fixed context condition in which the target interval was presented repeatedly across trials, and two variable context conditions differing in the frequencies used for the tones marking the temporal intervals. Musicians outperformed non-musicians on all 3 conditions, but the effects of context were similar for the two groups. Overall, it appears that, like frequency discrimination, temporal-interval discrimination benefits from having a fixed reference. Musical experience, while improving performance, did not alter the context effect, suggesting that improved discrimination skills among musicians are probably not an outcome of more sensitive contextual facilitation or predictive coding mechanisms.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)59-66
Number of pages8
JournalHearing Research
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Feb 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sensory Systems

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