We explored the ability of older (60-80 years old) and younger (18-23 years old) musicians and nonmusicians to judge the similarity of transposed melodies varying on rhythm, mode, and/or contour (Experiment 1) and to discriminate among melodies differing only in rhythm, mode, or contour (Experiment 2). Similarity ratings did not vary greatly among groups, with tunes differing only by mode being rated as most similar. In the same/different discrimination task, musicians performed better than nonmusicians, but we found no age differences. We also found that discrimination of major from minor tunes was difficult for everyone, even for musicians. Mode is apparently a subtle dimension in music, despite its deliberate use in composition and despite people's ability to label minor as "sad" and major as "happy."


Bartlett, J. C, & Dowling, W. J. (1980). The recognition of transposed melodies: A key- distance effect in developmental perspective. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Hu- man Perception and Performance, 6, 501-515.
Bartlett, J. C, Halpern, A. R., & Dowling, W. J. (1995). Recognition of familiar and unfa- miliar music in normal aging and Alzheimer's disease. Memory and Cognition, 23, 531- 546.
Charness, N. (1989). Age and expertise: Responding to Talland's challenge. In L. W. Poon, D. C. Rubin, & B. A. Wilson (Eds.), Everyday cognition in adulthood and late life (pp. 437-456), Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Dowling, W. J. (1972). Recognition of melodic transformations: Inversion, retrograde, and retrograde inversion. Perception & Psychophysics, 5, 417-421.
Dowling, W. J. (1973). Rhythmic groupings and subjective chunks in memory for melodies. Perception & Psychophysics, 14,37-40.
Dowling, W. J. (1991). Tonal strength and melody recognition after long and short delays. Perception & Psychophysics, 50, 305-313.
Dowling, W. J., Kwak, S., & Andrews, M. (1995). The time course of recognition of novel melodies. Perception & Psychophysics, 57, 136-149.
Gerardi, G. M., & Gerken, L. (1995). Development of affective responses to modality and melodic contour. Music Perception, 12, 279-290.
Halpern, A. R. (1984). Perception of structure in novel music. Memory and Cognition, 12, 163-170.
Halpern, A. R., Bartlett, J. C, & Dowling, W. J. (1995). Aging and experience in the recog- nition of musical transpositions. Psychology and Aging, 10, 325-342.
Halpern, A. R., Kwak, S. Y., Bartlett, J. C, & Dowling, W. J. (1996). The effects of aging and musical experience on the representation of tonal hierarchies. Psychology and Ag- ing, 11,235-246.
Jones, M. R., & Ralston, J. T. (1991). Some influences of accent structure on melody recog- nition. Memory and Cognition, 19, 8-20.
Krumhansl, C. L. (1991). Memory for musical surface. Memory and Cognition, 19, 401- 411.
Krumhansl, C. L., & Shepard, R. N. (1979). Quantification of the hierarchy of tonal func- tions within a diatonic context. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Percep- tion and Performance, 5, 579-594.
Madsen, C. K., & Staum, M. J. (1983). Discrimination and interference in the recall of melodic stimuli. Journal for Research in Music Education, 31, 15-31.
Morrow, D. G., Leirer, V. O., Altieri, P. A., & Fitzsimmons, C. (1994). When expertise reduced age differences in performance. Psychology and Aging, 9, 134-148.
Pollard-Gott, L. (1983). Emergence of thematic concepts in repeated listening to music. Cognitive Psychology, 15, 66-9 A.
Sattath, S., & Tversky, A. (1977). Additive similarity trees. Psychometrika, 42, 319-345.
Smith, J. D. (1997). The place of musical novices in music science. Music Perception, 14, 227-262.
Swets, J. A. (1973). The relative operating curve in psychology. Science, 182, 990-1000.
Welker, R. L. (1982). Abstraction of themes from melodic variations. Journal of Experi- mental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 8, 435-447.
This content is only available via PDF.