Influence of literacy on representation of time in musical stimuli: An exploratory cross-cultural study in the UK, Japan, and Papua New Guinea

George Athanasopoulos, Siu-Lan Tan, Nicola Moran

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Previous research has shown that literacy influences some dimensions of the visual (or graphic) representation of temporal events, and that concepts of time vary across cultures. The present exploratory study extends the scope of this research by examining representations of brief rhythmic sequences by individuals living in literate and nonliterate societies. A total of 122 participants were recruited at five sites: British musicians in the UK; Japanese musicians familiar and unfamiliar with English and Western Standard Notation (WSN) in Tokyo and Kyoto in Japan; language/WSN literate Papua New Guinean highlanders in Port Moresby; and nonliterate BenaBena tribe members in Papua New Guinea. In the first study, participants listened to brief rhythmic sequences and were asked to represent these graphically on paper in any manner of their choosing. In the second study, participants matched the auditory stimuli with pre-constructed sets of marks varying in directionality (i.e. the direction in which they should be read to correspond with the auditory events). The responses of literate participants generally reflected the directionality of their acquired writing systems, while responses of nonliterate participants conveyed no clear preference for directionality. In both studies, responses of literate and nonliterate groups in Papua New Guinea were distinct from each other.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPsychology of Music
Early online date4 Nov 2015
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 4 Nov 2015

Keywords

  • comparative
  • graphic representation
  • music and shape
  • notation
  • Rhythm

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