The OPERA hypothesis theorizes how musical experience heightens perceptual acuity to lexical tones. One missing element in the hypothesis is whether musical advantage is general to all or specific to some lexical tones. To further extend the hypothesis, this study investigated whether English musicians consistently outperformed English nonmusicians in perceiving a variety of Cantonese tones. In an AXB discrimination task, the musicians exhibited superior discriminatory performance over the nonmusicians only in the high level, high rising, and mid-level tone contexts. Similarly, in a Cantonese tone sequence recall task, the musicians significantly outperformed the nonmusicians only in the contour tone context but not in the level tone context. Collectively, the results reflect the selectivity of musical advantage—musical experience is only advantageous to the perception of some but not all Cantonese tones, and elements of selectivity can be introduced to the OPERA hypothesis. Methodologically, the findings highlight the need to include a wide variety of lexical tone contrasts when studying music-to-language transfer.

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