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Predictive Uncertainty Underlies Auditory Boundary Perception

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Anticipating the future is essential for efficient perception and action planning. Yet the role of anticipation in event segmentation is understudied because empirical research has focused on retrospective cues such as surprise. We address this concern in the context of perception of musical-phrase boundaries. A computational model of cognitive sequence processing was used to control the information-dynamic properties of tone sequences. In an implicit, self-paced listening task (N = 38), undergraduates dwelled longer on tones generating high entropy (i.e., high uncertainty) than on those generating low entropy (i.e., low uncertainty). Similarly, sequences that ended on tones generating high entropy were rated as sounding more complete (N = 31 undergraduates). These entropy effects were independent of both the surprise (i.e., information content) and phrase position of target tones in the original musical stimuli. Our results indicate that events generating high entropy prospectively contribute to segmentation processes in auditory sequence perception, independently of the properties of the subsequent event.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPsychological Science
Pages (from-to)1416-1425
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021

    Research areas

  • entropy, grouping, music, open data, open materials, perception, prediction

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