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Dev Psychol. 2001 Jan;37(1):74-85.

Absolute pitch in infant auditory learning: evidence for developmental reorganization.

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  • 1Waisman Center and Department of Psychology, University of Wisconsin--Madison, 53706, USA.


To what extent do infants represent the absolute pitches of complex auditory stimuli? Two experiments with 8-month-old infants examined the use of absolute and relative pitch cues in a tone-sequence statistical learning task. The results suggest that, given unsegmented stimuli that do not conform to the rules of musical composition, infants are more likely to track patterns of absolute pitches than of relative pitches. A 3rd experiment tested adults with or without musical training on the same statistical learning tasks used in the infant experiments. Unlike the infants, adult listeners relied primarily on relative pitch cues. These results suggest a shift from an initial focus on absolute pitch to the eventual dominance of relative pitch, which, it is argued, is more useful for both music and speech processing.

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