A reliable and valid tool for measuring visual recognition ability with musical notation

Yetta Kwailing WONG*, Kelvin F.H. LUI, Alan C.N. WONG*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Recognizing musical notation is an important skill to a full participation of Western classical music, but remains a largely under-researched topic in the psychology of music. One plausible reason of such omission is that, in the past, the research field has heavily relied on self-report of music reading ability, which was subjective and highly variable. This paper presents a reliable and valid tool for objectively measuring individual abilities in visual recognition of musical notation. The visual fluency task measures how fast one can accurately recognize a sequence of musical notation at a desired accuracy level using the adaptive psychometric method QUEST. We checked the reliability of this task in over 200 participants in terms of Guttman’s λ-2 and Cronbach’s alpha. Also, we evaluated the construct validity of this task by considering the convergent validity of this task with multiple external real-world measures of one’s musical training background, with numerous experimental measures of visual tendencies of musical notation recognition and with sight-reading performance. Overall, the visual fluency task achieved satisfactory reliability and validity for measuring abilities in recognizing musical notation. This opens the door for characterizing the cognitive mechanisms, development, and individual differences in musical notation recognition, for understanding music learning and music psychology and for understanding of visual perceptual expertise in general.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)836-845
Number of pages10
JournalBehavior Research Methods
Issue number2
Early online date1 Sept 2020
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Individual differences
  • Music reading
  • Perceptual expertise
  • Psychophysics


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