Distinctive stimuli are better recognized than typical stimuli in many domains (e.g., faces, words). Distinctiveness predicts the point of recognition of a melody (Bailes, 2010), and the recognition of unique tones within a melody (Vuvan, Podolak, & Schmuckler, 2014), yet no studies have examined the role of distinctiveness in recognizing whole melodies. We composed a set of novel melodies according to rules that should result in these being perceived as more or less distinctive. Using computational analysis and human ratings by a group of 36 pilot testers, we established a final stimulus set of 96 novel melodies (48 eightnote, 48 sixteen-note), half of which were high and half low in distinctiveness. A separate group of 26 participants completed a recognition test using this stimulus set. Using linear mixed-effects modeling, we found that greater pitch and interval range, wider intervals, varied contour, and ambiguous tonality within a Western diatonic framework predicted human perception of distinctiveness. However, only a wider modal (most frequent) interval predicted correct recognition. Distinctiveness improved recognition performance in both stimulus lengths; however, a significant advantage was only shown for sixteen-note melodies. Thus, the distinctiveness effect as observed across domains generalizes to the recognition of longer, whole melodies.

You do not currently have access to this content.