Date of Award




Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Department of Psychology


Cognitive Psychology

Content Description

1 online resource (ii, 31 pages) : illustrations (some color), music.

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Heather Sheridan

Committee Members

W. T. Neill


attention, chunking, expertise, eye tracking, music, visual search, Saccadic eye movements, Eye, Musical ability, Musicians, Perceptual grouping

Subject Categories



An important component of expertise is the ability to rapidly recognize domain-related perceptual patterns. To explore this ability in the domain of music reading, a unique visual search paradigm was used to compare the eye movements of 30 expert musicians (with at least 10 years of music reading skill) and 30 novices (who could not read music). Participants had to match a section of a piece of sheet music (search template) to its identical counterpart within a larger music score (search array). Both the search template and array were presented on the screen simultaneously, which allowed for visual comparisons between the target and the array. By employing a visual search task to isolate the visual component of music, it was possible to study music expertise across a wide range of expertise. The task elicited strong expert/novice differences. Relative to the novices, experts had higher accuracy, and spent more time looking at the relevant regions and less time looking at irrelevant regions. Also, as evidence that the experts and novices adopted qualitatively different search strategies, the experts spent more time than novices looking at the search template at the beginning of the trial, and the experts returned to this region less often than novices. Taken together, these results indicate that experts can acquire accurate representations of highly complex search template, which allows them to focus their attention on relevant rather than irrelevant regions during their search. These findings are consistent with the predictions of chunking and template theories of expertise.

Included in

Psychology Commons