The difference between major and minor scales plays a central role in Western music. However, recent research using random tone sequences (“tone-scrambles”) has revealed a dramatically bimodal distribution in sensitivity to this difference: 30% of listeners are near perfect in classifying major versus minor tone-scrambles; the other 70% perform near chance. Here, whether or not infants show this same pattern is investigated. The anticipatory eye-movements of thirty 6-month-old infants were monitored during trials in which the infants heard a tone-scramble whose quality (major versus minor) signalled the location (right versus left) where a subsequent visual stimulus (the target) would appear. For 33% of infants, these anticipatory eye-movements predicted target location with near perfect accuracy; for the other 67%, the anticipatory eye-movements were unrelated to the target location. In conclusion, six-month-old infants show the same distribution as adults in sensitivity to the difference between major versus minor tone-scrambles.
Sensitivity to major versus minor musical modes is bimodally distributed in young infants
Scott A. Adler, Kyle J. Comishen, Audrey M. B. Wong-Kee-You, Charles Chubb; Sensitivity to major versus minor musical modes is bimodally distributed in young infants. J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 1 June 2020; 147 (6): 3758–3764. https://doi.org/10.1121/10.0001349
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