The pupil as an index of musical rhythmic structure and listeners' absorption
In this talk I provide an overview of a series of recent studies in which we employ a computational model to predict fluctuations in listeners' attention as a function of the temporal structure in an auditory stimulus. We test our predictions against behavioral indices of attention, namely perceptual thresholds and subjective reports, as well as physiological markers of attention, namely changes in pupil size. Firstly, we find that perceptual thresholds for detecting intensity changes in rhythmic scenes fluctuate over time (i.e., attention is not evenly distributed over time), as predicted by our model. Secondly, we show that the pupil dilates in response to intensity changes - including those presented below perceptual threshold -, regardless of whether the change is an increase or decrease in intensity. Maximum evoked pupil size predicts whether listeners detect any given change or not. Thirdly, during natural music listening, we observe pupillary entrainment to prominent periodicities in music, and show that the phase coherence between the pupil signal and music is predictive of participants’ self-reported absorption in the music. NOTE: this submission is intended to be part of the Blick and Bewegung symposium.