Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Psychology



First Committee Member

Erin E. Hannon, Chair

Second Committee Member

Joel S. Snyder

Third Committee Member

Mark H. Ashcraft

Graduate Faculty Representative

Eugenie Burkett

Number of Pages



Our ability to accurately synchronize with rhythmic patterns is constrained by two factors: temporal length and interval structure. By using strategies such as subdivision, we can improve synchronization accuracy at slow tempos, but our ability to utilize subdivisions is constrained by the nature of interval ratios contained in culture-specific subdivision types. Western music falls within a restricted temporal range and its metrical subdivisions contain simple ratios, but Indian music violates these constraints. The present study examines the effects of culture-specific experience on these constraints. American and Indian listeners were asked to perform synchronous tapping to a stimulus with a slow tempo which was accompanied by silence or by a rhythmic pattern that subdivided the inter-event interval into groups of two or three (simple), or alternating units of two and three (complex). On a subset of trials, the subdividing pattern switched halfway through the trial, from a simple to simple, simple to complex, or complex to simple. Western listeners found complex patterns more challenging to reproduce, and exhibited a decrease in accuracy of synchronization whenever there was a switch away from a simple meter. By contrast, Indian listeners performed comparably across all subdivision patterns, and exhibited a drop in accuracy whenever there was a switch. These results reflect the role of passive cultural exposure to our ability to synchronize with different metrical patterns, and have important implications for ability to form mental representations.


Cross-cultural; Ethnomusicology; Mental representations; Music perception; Musical meter and rhythm – Social aspects; Sensorimotor synchronization; Tempo (Music); Temporal constraints


Cognition and Perception | Cognitive Psychology | Music

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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