Musical expectations may arise from short-term sensitivity to the statistics of the immediate context and from long-term knowledge acquired through previous listening experiences. Here we investigate the influence of two statistical structures on tonal expectations: the frequency with which individual pitches occur, and the occurrence of such pitches on strong or weak positions of the musical meter. We familiarized nonmusician adult listeners to a 2-min tone sequence in which some pitches occurred more frequently than others (Experiment 1) or some pitches occurred more frequently on strong than on weak metrical positions (Experiment 2). Participants then indicated which of two short test sequences matched the familiarization sequence (Experiments 1a and 2a), or they provided fit ratings for individual probe tones following short test sequences (Experiments 1b and 2b). In Experiments 1a and 2a, listeners correctly identified the test sequence that matched the familiarization. In Experiments 1b and 2b, we found that the statistics of the immediate context strongly influenced probe tone ratings. In Experiment 2b, but not Experiment 1b, prior familiarization also influenced participants’ ratings. Findings suggest that both frequency-of-occurrence and metrical position exert a short-term influence on perceived tonal stability, and metrical position also exerts a long-term influence.

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