Auditory discrimination of frequency ratios: the octave singularity.

Damien Bonnard, Christophe Micheyl, Catherine Semal, René Dauman, Laurent Demany
Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance. 2013-01-01; 39(3): 788-801
DOI: 10.1037/a0030095

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1. J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform. 2013 Jun;39(3):788-801. doi: 10.1037/a0030095.
Epub 2012 Oct 22.

Auditory discrimination of frequency ratios: the octave singularity.

Bonnard D(1), Micheyl C, Semal C, Dauman R, Demany L.

Author information:
(1)INCIA, Université de Bordeaux and CNRS, 146 rue Leo-Saignat, Bordeaux Cedex,

Sensitivity to frequency ratios is essential for the perceptual processing of
complex sounds and the appreciation of music. This study assessed the effect of
ratio simplicity on ratio discrimination for pure tones presented either
simultaneously or sequentially. Each stimulus consisted of four 100-ms pure
tones, equally spaced in terms of frequency ratio and presented at a low
intensity to limit interactions in the auditory periphery. Listeners had to
discriminate between a reference frequency ratio of 0.97 octave (about 1.96:1)
and target frequency ratios, which were larger than the reference. In the
simultaneous condition, the obtained psychometric functions were nonmonotonic: as
the target frequency ratio increased from 0.98 octave to 1.04 octaves,
discrimination performance initially increased, then decreased, and then
increased again; performance was better when the target was exactly one octave
(2:1) than when the target was slightly larger. In the sequential condition, by
contrast, the psychometric functions were monotonic and there was no effect of
frequency ratio simplicity. A control experiment verified that the
non-monotonicity observed in the simultaneous condition did not originate from
peripheral interactions between the tones. Our results indicate that simultaneous
octaves are recognized as “special” frequency intervals by a mechanism that is
insensitive to the sign (positive or negative) of deviations from the octave,
whereas this is apparently not the case for sequential octaves.

(PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2013 APA, all rights reserved).

DOI: 10.1037/a0030095
PMCID: PMC3905309
PMID: 23088507 [Indexed for MEDLINE]

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