One of the features of the auditory system is its ability to efficiently process events that occur in rapid succession. The aim of the present study is to propose a new way of investigating sensitivity to auditory tempo changes. More specifically, it proposes to compare the relative sensitivity (bias) to acceleration and deceleration in both musical and monotonal conditions. Bias was measured with (1) a conventional psychophysical method known as the method of constant stimuli (MCS) and (2) a so-called method of dynamic stimuli (MDS). The latter method consists in responding with a finger press as soon as a near-continual tempo change is detected. With the MCS, there was no preference, as estimated by the point of subjective equality, between acceleration and deceleration in the monotonal condition, but there was a preference in the musical condition that indicated more facility for estimating decelerations than accelerations. The results obtained with the MDS are consistent with the MCS results, given that the response time was faster for decelerations than accelerations in the musical condition but not in the monotonal condition. We conclude that the MDS is a sensitive tool for investigating slight tempo variations.
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