To gain insight into the internal representation of temporal patterns, we studied the perception and reproduction of tone sequences in which only the tone-onset intervals were varied. A theory of the processing of such sequences, partly implemented as a computer program, is presented. A basic assumption of the theory is that perceivers try to generate an internal clock while listening to a temporal pattern. This internal clock is of a flexible nature that adapts itself to certain characteristics of the pattern under consideration. The distribution of accented events perceived in the sequence is supposed to determine whether a clock can (and which clock will) be generated internally. Further it is assumed that if a clock is induced in the perceiver, it will be used as a measuring device to specify the temporal structure of the pattern. The nature of this specification is formalized in a tentative coding model. Three experiments are reported that test different aspects of the model. In Experiment 1, subjects reproduced various temporal patterns that only differed structurally in order to test the hypothesis that patterns more readily inducing an internal clock will give rise to more accurate percepts. In Experiment 2, clock induction is manipulated experimentally to test the clock notion more directly. Experiment 3 tests the coding portion of the model by correlating theoretical complexity of temporal patterns based on the coding model with complexity judgments. The experiments yield data that support the theoretical ideas.

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