Investigating auditory processing of nursery rhymes: An EEG study of rhyme and metre and their relationship to musical aptitude

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Everyday language is filled with rhyme and metric patterns, for example in proverbs, songs or nursery rhymes. Obermeier et al. (2016) investigated auditory rhyme and metre processing in German poetry by means of event-related potentials (ERP). The biphasic N400-P600 interaction effect they identified in the ERP suggested rhyme and metre facilitate processing of auditorily presented speech. The current study aimed to replicate these findings in a naturalistic setting using Dutch poetic verse stimuli, as well as assess whether musical aptitude influences sensitivity to rhyme and metre. In a passive listening paradigm twenty-eight adult participants listened to metred and non-metred nursery rhymes, with rhyming or non-rhyming pseudowords at the end of each line. Musical aptitude of each participant was measured using a self-report questionnaire and a behavioural task. ERP results from ANOVA and cluster-randomisation tests revealed rhyme and metre effects on the N400 and rhyme and metre effects in the P600 time-window, but no interaction between rhyme and metre. Musical aptitude did not correlate significantly with ERP results. The absence of a behavioural task during listening and the use of naturalistic, whole-sentence stimuli with non-word target words may have caused the present results to differ from those of Obermeier et al. (2016) and other previous reports of rhyme and metre facilitation effects.
Faculteit der Sociale Wetenschappen