Incidental and online learning of melodic structure.
The cognition of music, like that of language, is partly rooted in enculturative processes of implicit and incidental learning. Musicians and nonmusicians alike are commonly found to possess detailed implicit knowledge of musical structure which is acquired incidentally through interaction with large samples of music. This paper reports an experiment combining the methodology of artificial grammar learning with musical acquisition of melodic structure. Participants acquired knowledge of grammatical melodic structures under incidental learning conditions in both experimental and untrained control conditions. Subsequent analysis indicates a large effect of unsupervised online learning in the experimental and control group throughout the course of the testing phase suggesting an effective ongoing learning process. Musicians did not outperform nonmusicians, indicating that musical expertise is not advantageous for the learning of a new, unfamiliar melodic system. Confidence ratings suggest that participants became aware of the knowledge guiding their classification performance despite the incidental learning conditions.