Incidental learning in music reading: The music contingency learning task


Journal Article


Iorio, C., Šaban, I., Poulin-Charronnat, B., Schmidt, J. R.




Incidental learning in music reading: The music contingency learning task

Journal / book / conference

Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology


The present report investigated whether nonmusicians can incidentally learn musical skills needed for sight-reading. On each trial, participants identified a note name written inside of a note on the musical staff. In Experiment 1, each note was presented frequently with the congruent note name (e.g., “do” with the note for “do”) and rarely with the incongruent names (e.g., “do” with the note for “fa”). With or without deliberate learning instructions, a robust contingency learning effect was observed: faster responses for congruent trials compared to incongruent trials. Participants also explicitly identified the meaning of the note positions more accurately than chance. Experiment 2 ruled out the potential influence of preexisting knowledge on the contingency learning effect by presenting notes most often with an incongruent note name. Robust learning was again observed, suggesting that participants acquired sufficient knowledge of musical notation to produce automatic influences on behavior (e.g., akin to the interference effect previously found in skilled musicians). A congruency effect was additionally observed in Experiment 2, however. Experiment 3 further explored to what extent this congruency effect might be due to prior music knowledge and/or spatial stimulus-response compatibility between note and response locations (analogous to the SMARC effect). Overall, our results open up new avenues for investigating the incidental learning of complex material, musical or otherwise, and for reinforcing learning even further.






music cognition, sight reading, contingency learning, incidental learning, musical Stroop, stimulus-response compatibility


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