Absolute pitch memory: Its prevalence among musicians and dependence on the testing context
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AbstractAbsolute pitch (AP) is widely believed to be a rare ability possessed by only a small group of gifted and special individuals (AP possessors). While AP has fascinated psychologists, neuroscientists, and musicians for more than a century, no theory can satisfactorily explain why this ability is so rare and difficult to learn. Here, we show that AP ability appears rare because of the methodological issues of the standard pitch-naming test. Specifically, the standard test unnecessarily poses a high decisional demand on AP judgments and uses a testing context that is highly inconsistent with one's musical training. These extra cognitive challenges are not central to AP memory per se and have thus led to consistent underestimation of AP ability in the population. Using the standard test, we replicated the typical findings that the accuracy for general violinists was low (12.38 %; chance level = 0 %). With identical stimuli, scoring criteria, and participants, violinists attained 25 % accuracy in a pitch verification test in which the decisional demand of AP judgment was reduced. When the testing context was increasingly similar to their musical experience, verification accuracy improved further and reached 39 %, three times higher than that for the standard test. Results were replicated with a separate group of pianists. Our findings challenge current theories about AP and suggest that the prevalence of AP among musicians has been highly underestimated in prior work. A multimodal framework is proposed to better explain AP memory.
All Author(s) ListWong YK, Wong ACN
Journal namePsychonomic Bulletin and Review
Detailed description10.3758/s13423-013-0487-z.
Volume Number21
Issue Number2
Pages534 - 542
LanguagesEnglish-United Kingdom
KeywordsAuditory; Context; Expertise; Multimodal; Music training; Pitch processing
Web of Science Subject CategoriesPsychology; Psychology, Experimental; PSYCHOLOGY, EXPERIMENTAL; Psychology, Mathematical; PSYCHOLOGY, MATHEMATICAL

Last updated on 2021-23-09 at 00:53