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Modeling the subjective beat in period, phase and uncertainty

Modeling the subjective beat in period, phase and uncertainty

Presenter Name:Miguel, Martin

School/Affiliation:Auditory Development Lab and TRIMBALab, Department of Psychology Neuroscience and Behaviour, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada

Co-Authors:Cannon, Jonathan & Trainor, Laurel


The musical beat is a percept in the mind of a listener that is used to understand the relative timing and duration of musical events. The beat can be subjective, having different locations and periods for different listeners. The beat can also be more or less clearly evoked. This feature, namely pulse clarity, has been broadly used in music psychology and has been related to  degree and variability of movement as well with as with distinct activations of brain areas such as the putamen.

In this work we present a methodology to describe the subjective beat as a probability distribution in both period and phase, in contrast with previous work that looked at ambiguity only in period. The proposed methodology takes as input the beat produced by a population of listeners in a free beat-tapping task. With this methodology, we can also quantify the probability of a listener not feeling a beat, as the amount of time that no beat was produced by the listeners.

We present the details of the methodology and examples of its output over three distinct datasets. We also provide preliminary analysis using this output to analyze if beat ambiguity – different beats being probably – functions as differentiated magnitude than beat strength – whether a beat is felt at all – in the overall concept of pulse clarity.

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