- by Mount Saint Mary College

Nicole Arco, an adjunct professor of Psychology at Mount Saint Mary College, presented "Music Expertise and Impact on Eye Movements," on Thursday, March 3 on campus.

According to some theories of expertise, experts (of any field) learn how to group together individual features into larger meaningful patterns called "chunks."

In her talk, Arco discussed how she tested if expert musicians use chunks to process music scores by reanalyzing an eye tracking dataset from a music expertise study by Maturi & Sheridan from 2020. In this study, 30 experts and 30 non-musicians completed a music-related visual search task while their eye movements were monitored.

The experts showed higher accuracy and they also spent more time fixating on relevant regions, compared to the non-musicians. Specifically, they had a higher proportion of fixations and longer fixation durations than novices for the two outer quartiles, but not for the two middle quartiles. One possible explanation for why experts fixate closer to the edge of a bar of music is that they are using parafoveal processing to encode larger patterns (or chunks) that extend across multiple bars.

These findings "suggest that there are qualitative differences in how experts and non-musicians allocate their attention while processing music scores, which is consistent with the assumptions of chunking and template theories," Arco explained.

The talk was part of the Mount's Investigating Research on Campus (iROC) series. The goal of iROC is to provide a forum for Mount faculty, staff, and students to showcase their research endeavors with the college and local communities. Presentations include research proposals, initial data collection, and completed research projects.

All iROC talks are free and open to the public. Currently there are both in-person and virtual options. The next iROC talk, "Hybrid Teaching is Not a Limbo nor a Multiverse" by Victor Azuaje, professor of Hispanic Studies, will take place on Thursday, March 24 at 4 p.m. It will be presented at the Mount, 330 Powell Ave., Newburgh. It will also be offered online at the same time. To register for the online version, visit


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