Musical and linguistic listening modes in the speech-to-song illusion bias timing perception and absolute pitch memory

Emily Graber, Rhimmon Simchy-Gross, Elizabeth Hellmuth Margulis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


The speech-to-song (STS) illusion is a phenomenon in which some spoken utterances perceptually transform to song after repetition [Deutsch, Henthorn, and Lapidis (2011). J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 129, 2245-2252]. Tierney, Dick, Deutsch, and Sereno [(2013). Cereb. Cortex. 23, 249-254] developed a set of stimuli where half tend to transform to perceived song with repetition and half do not. Those that transform and those that do not can be understood to induce a musical or linguistic mode of listening, respectively. By comparing performance on perceptual tasks related to transforming and non-transforming utterances, the current study examines whether the musical mode of listening entails higher sensitivity to temporal regularity and better absolute pitch (AP) memory compared to the linguistic mode. In experiment 1, inter-stimulus intervals within STS trials were steady, slightly variable, or highly variable. Participants reported how temporally regular utterance entrances were. In experiment 2, participants performed an AP memory task after a blocked STS exposure phase. Utterances identically matching those used in the exposure phase were targets among transposed distractors in the test phase. Results indicate that listeners exhibit heightened awareness of temporal manipulations but reduced awareness of AP manipulations to transforming utterances. This methodology establishes a framework for implicitly differentiating musical from linguistic perception.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3593-3602
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the Acoustical Society of America
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2017
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Acoustics and Ultrasonics


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