It has long been assumed that rhythm cognition builds on perceptual categories tied to prototypes defined by small-integer ratios, such as 1:1 and 2:1. This study aims to evaluate the relative contributions of both generic constraints and selected cultural particularities in shaping rhythmic prototypes. We experimentally tested musicians’ synchronization (finger tapping) with simple periodic rhythms at two different tempi with participants in Mali, Bulgaria, and Germany. We found support both for the classic assumption that 1:1 and 2:1 prototypes are widespread across cultures and for culture-dependent prototypes characterized by more complex ratios such as 3:2 and 4:3. Our findings suggest that music-cultural environments specify links between music performance patterns and perceptual prototypes.

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