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Michael Schutz and Michael Kubovy (2009)

Deconstructing a musical delusion: Point-light representations capture salient properties of impact motions

Canadian Acoustics, 37(1):23-28.

Although visual information affects auditory perception in a variety of tasks, audition is generally believed to be relatively immune from visual influence when judging tone duration. However, Schutz and Lipscomb (2007) report a musical illusion in which physical gestures influence the perceived duration of notes performed on the marimba. In order to better understand which aspects of these gestures are responsible for the illusion, we created a "schematic marimbist" consisting of either a four-point skeleton or a single moving dot. This schematic abstraction captured the essential properties of the gestures, replicating the effect under both conditions. Therefore, this illusion requires seeing only a sudden change in gesture direction - independent of the depiction of a struck object. As this finding means that it can be replicated with a minimum of visual information, it will be useful in facilitating future research aimed at uncovering the reason for this break with the widely accepted theory of 'optimal integration'.