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Research concerning cognitive processes for tonic inference is diverse involving approaches from several different perspectives. Outwardly, the ability to infer tonic seems fundamentally simple; yet it cannot be attributed to any single cognitive process, but is multi-faceted, engaging complex elements of the brain. This study will examine past research concerning tonic inference in light of current findings. First I will survey the recent history of experimental research in cognitive functions for memory retention and expectation as they relate to the recognition and learning of musical schemas. Then I will discuss distributional theories associated with the tonal hierarchy of major and minor key profiles and compare them with functional aspects of the intervallic rivalry model and 4/5 opening rule in order to demonstrate how they are not mutually exclusive for the inference of a tonic pitch. This will be followed with suggestions for instructors of music theory and aural skills in light of findings concerning cognitive aspects for inferring tonic.
Advisor: Stanley V. Kleppinger