An efficient and adaptive test of auditory mental imagery

Gelding, Rebecca; Harrison, Peter M. C.; Silas, Sebastian; Johnson, Blake; Thompson, William and Müllensiefen, Daniel. 2020. An efficient and adaptive test of auditory mental imagery. Psychological Research, ISSN 0340-0727 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

The ability to silently hear music in the mind has been argued to be fundamental to musicality. Objective measurements of this subjective imagery experience are needed if this link between imagery ability and musicality is to be investigated. However, previous tests of musical imagery either rely on self-report, rely on melodic memory, or do not cater in range of abilities. The Pitch Imagery Arrow Task (PIAT) was designed to address these shortcomings; however, it is impractically long. In this paper, we shorten the PIAT using adaptive testing and automatic item generation. We interrogate the cognitive processes underlying the PIAT through item response modelling. The result is an efficient online test of auditory mental imagery ability (adaptive Pitch Imagery Arrow Task: aPIAT) that takes 8 min to complete, is adaptive to participant’s individual ability, and so can be used to test participants with a range of musical backgrounds. Performance on the aPIAT showed positive moderate-to-strong correlations with measures of non-musical and musical working memory, self-reported musical training, and general musical sophistication. Ability on the task was best predicted by the ability to maintain and manipulate tones in mental imagery, as well as to resist perceptual biases that can lead to incorrect responses. As such, the aPIAT is the ideal tool in which to investigate the relationship between pitch imagery ability and musicality.

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R.W.G., B.W.J., and W.F.T. were supported by the ARC Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders (CE110001021). In addition, W.F.T. was supported by a Discovery Grant from the ARC (DP16010470). P.M.C.H. is supported by a doctoral studentship from the EPSRC and AHRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Media and Arts Technology (EP/L01632X/1). D.M. is supported by the Anneliese-Maier research prize from the Humboldt Foundation.

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14 March 2020Accepted
30 April 2020Published Online

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Date Deposited:

14 May 2020 13:06

Last Modified:

07 Apr 2021 11:50

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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