Recent research in music cognition has investigated ways in which different structural dimensions interact to influence perception and cognition. In the present research, various musical characteristics were manipulated to observe their potential influence on perceived tempo. In Experiment 1, participants were given a paired comparison task in which music-like patterns differed in both the pitch octave (high vs. low) and timbre (bright vs. dull) in which they were played. The results indicated that relative to their standard referents, comparison melodies were judged faster when displaying a higher pitch and/or a brighter timbre—even when no actual tempo differences existed. Experiment 2 converged on these findings by demonstrating that the perceived tempo of a melody was judged faster when it increased in pitch and/or loudness over time. These results are suggested to stem from an overgeneralization of certain structural correlations within the natural environment that, in turn, has implications for both musical performance and the processing of tempo information.
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