Cross-Cultural Perception

Over 90% of psychology experiments between 2003-2007 were conducted on WEIRD subjects, hailing from Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic societies (Arnett 2008). Henrich et al. (2010) have argued that these populations constitute an extremely biased sample across several critical dimensions, manifested in paradigms from basic visual and spatial perception to social cognition. Even less is known about cross-cultural differences and similarities in the auditory modality. The group research plan integrates elements from neuroscience, psychology, cultural anthropology, and ethnomusicology with the aim of significantly increasing our knowledge about the cultural foundations of auditory perception. We will be using recent computational techniques such as iterated learning (Jacoby and McDermott 2017; Xu et al. 2013; Sanborn and Griffiths 2015) alongside classical psychophysical methods and music cognition paradigms to increase the bandwidth of field measurements, thereby providing detailed characterizations of internal representation across cultures.

In order to bypass the dependency of current behavioural methods on linguistic instruction, we devised experiments in which participants directly interacted with auditory stimuli by singing, tapping, gesturing, or speaking. We have since used these and other techniques to study diverse populations ranging from Malian drummers to Bulgarian folk musicians and Uruguayan candombe players, clarifying our understanding of rhythm, pitch, and consonance perception. We have also established a network of research collaborators with access to diverse cohorts in fifteen countries around the world, the first results of which can be seen in our global comparison of rhythm priors. In building the global network, we ensured the inclusion of local scientists and experts from underrepresented minorities in the team and in the decision-making process. In doing so, we initiated a forum for exploring the challenges of cross-cultural work by co-organizing two international workshops which led to multi-authored position papers

Featured publications

Polak, R.*, N. Jacoby*, T. Fischinger, D. Goldberg, A. Holzapfel, & J. London. (2018). "Rhythmic prototypes across cultures. A comparative study of tapping synchronization." Music Perception, 36.1: 1-23. DOI: 10.1525/mp.2018.36.1.1. *Equal Contribution

Jacoby, N., E. A. Undurraga, M. J. McPherson, J. Valdes, T. Ossandon. & J. H. McDermott. (2019). Universal and non-universal features of musical pitch perception revealed by sung reproduction. Current Biology 29, 1-15.

Jacoby, N.,* E. H.  Margulis*, M. Clayton, E. Hannon, H. Honing, J. Iversen, T. R. Klein, S. A. Mehr, L. Pearson, I. Peretz, M. Perlman, R. Polak, A. Ravignani, P. E. Savage, G. Steingo, C. J. Stevens, L. Trainor, S. Trehub, M. Veal & M. Wald-Fuhrmann (2019). Cross-cultural work in music cognition: Challenges, insights and recommendations. Music Perception 37.3, 185-195.

McPherson, M. J., S. E. Dolan, A. Durango, T. Ossandon, J. Valdes, E. A. Undurraga, N. Jacoby, R. A. Godoy & J. H. McDermott. 2020. Perceptual fusion of musical notes by native Amazonians suggests universal representations of musical intervals. Nature Communications 11: 2786.

Lee, H., F. Hoeger, M. Schoenwiesner, M. Park & N. Jacoby. 2021. Cross-cultural Mood Perception in Pop Songs and its Alignment with Mood Detection Algorithms. 22nd International Society of Music Information Retrieval (ISMIR).

Jacoby, N.*, R. Polak* & J. London* (2021). Extreme precision in rhythmic interaction is enabled by role-optimized sensorimotor coupling: Analysis and modeling of West African drum ensemble music. Philosophical Transactions B 201 376(1835), p.20200331. 

Savage, P.E., N. Jacoby*, E. H. Margulis*, H. Daikoku M. Anglada-Tort,S. El-Sawan Castelo-Branco, F. Ewomazino Nweke, S. Fujii,S. Hegde, H. Chuan-Peng, J. Jabbour,  C. Lew-Williams, D. Mangalagiu, R. McNamara, D. Müllensiefen, P. Opondo, A. D. Patel, H. Schippers. Building sustainable global collaborative networks: Recommendations from music studies and the social sciences. Manuscript submitted for publication.

Jacoby, N., R. Polak, J. Grahn, D. Cameron, K. M. Lee, R. Godoy, E. A. Undurraga, T. Huanca, T. Thalwitzer, N. Doumbia, D. Goldberg, E. Margulis, P. C. M. Wong, L. Jure, M. Rocamora, S. Fujii, P. E. Savage, J. Ajimi, R. Konno, S. Oishi, K. Jakubowski, A. Holzapfel, E. Mungan, E. Kaya, P. Rao, R. M. Ananthanarayana, S. Alladi, B. Tarr, M. Anglada-Tort, P. Harrison, M. J. McPherson, S. Dolan, A. Durango & J. H. McDermott. In review. Universality and cross-cultural variation in mental representations of music revealed by global comparison of rhythm priors.