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OFAI-TR-2014-08 ( 1904kB PDF file)

Context-specific effects of musical expertise on audiovisual integration

Laura Bishop, Werner Goebl

Ensemble musicians exchange auditory and visual signals that can facilitate interpersonal synchronisation. Musical expertise improves how precisely auditory and visual signals are perceptually integrated and increases sensitivity to asynchrony between them. Whether expertise improves sensitivity to audiovisual asynchrony in all instrumental contexts or only in those using sound-producing gestures that are within an observer's own motor repertoire is unclear. This study tested the hypothesis that musicians are more sensitive to audiovisual asynchrony in performances featuring their own instrument than in performances featuring other instruments. Short clips were extracted from audio-video recordings of clarinet, piano, and violin performances and presented to highly-skilled clarinettists, pianists, and violinists. Clips either maintained the audiovisual synchrony present in the original recording or were modified so that the video led or lagged behind the audio. Participants indicated whether the audio and video channels in each clip were synchronised. The range of asynchronies most often endorsed as synchronised was assessed as a measure of participants' sensitivities to audiovisual asynchrony. A positive relationship was observed between musical training and sensitivity, with data pooled across stimuli. While participants across expertise groups detected asynchronies most readily in piano stimuli and least readily in violin stimuli, pianists showed significantly better performance for piano stimuli than for either clarinet or violin. These findings suggest that, to an extent, the effects of expertise on audiovisual integration can be instrument-specific; however, the nature of the sound-producing gestures that are observed has a substantial effect on how readily asynchrony is detected as well.

Keywords: audiovisual integration, action prediction, music ensembles

Citation: Bishop L., Goebl W.: Context-specific effects of musical expertise on audiovisual integration, Frontiers in Cognitive Science, 5, 1123, 2014.