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J Acoust Soc Am. 2010 May;127(5):3026-37. doi: 10.1121/1.3365252.

Stimulus uncertainty and insensitivity to pitch-change direction.

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Department of Psychology, University of York, York YO10 5DD, United Kingdom.


In a series of experiments, Semal and Demany [(2006). J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 120, 3907-3915] demonstrated that some normally hearing listeners are unable to determine the direction of small but detectable differences in frequency between pure tones. Unlike studies demonstrating similar effects in patients with brain damage, the authors used stimuli in which the standard frequency of the tones was highly uncertain (roved) over trials. In Experiment 1, listeners were identified as insensitive to the direction of pitch changes using stimuli with frequency roving. When listeners were retested using stimuli without roving in Experiment 2, impairments in pitch-direction identification were generally much less profound. In Experiment 3, frequency-roving range had a systematic effect on listeners' thresholds, and impairments in pitch-direction identification tended to occur only when the roving range was widest. In Experiment 4, the influence of frequency roving was similar for continuous frequency changes as for discrete changes. Possible explanations for the influence of roving on listeners' insensitivity to pitch-change direction are discussed.

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