The aim of the present study was to investigate if the perception of time is affected by actively attending to different metrical levels in musical rhythmic patterns. In an experiment with a repeated-measures design, musicians and nonmusicians were presented with musical rhythmic patterns played at three different tempi. They synchronized with multiple metrical levels (half notes, quarter notes, eighth notes) of these patterns using a finger-tapping paradigm and listened without tapping. After each trial, stimulus duration was judged using a verbal estimation paradigm. Results show that the metrical level participants synchronized with influenced perceived time: actively attending to a higher metrical level (half notes, longer intertap intervals) led to the shortest time estimations, hence time was experienced as passing more quickly. Listening without tapping led to the longest time estimations. The faster the tempo of the patterns, the longer the time estimation. While there were no differences between musicians and nonmusicians, those participants who tapped more consistently and accurately (as analyzed by circular statistics) estimated durations to be shorter. Thus, attending to different metrical levels in music, by deliberately directing attention and motor activity, affects time perception.

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