Temporal integration in absolute identification of musical pitch

I. Hui Hsieh, Kourosh Saberi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


The effect of stimulus duration on absolute identification of musical pitch was measured in a single-interval 12-alternative forced-choice task. Stimuli consisted of pure tones selected randomly on each trial from a set of 60 logarithmically spaced musical note frequencies from 65.4 to 1975.5 Hz (C2-B6). Stimulus durations were 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, and 1000 ms. Six absolute-pitch musicians identified the pitch of pure tones without feedback, reference sounds, or practice trials. Results showed that a 5 ms stimulus is sufficient for producing statistically significant above chance performance. Performance monotonically increased up to the longest duration tested (1000 ms). Higher octave stimuli produced better performance, though the rate of improvement declined with increasing octave number. Normalization by the number of waveform cycles showed that 4 cycles are sufficient for absolute-pitch identification. Restricting stimuli to a fixed-cycle waveform instead of a fixed-duration still produced monotonic improvements in performance as a function of stimulus octave, demonstrating that better performance at higher frequencies does not exclusively result from a larger number of waveform cycles. Several trends in the data were well predicted by an autocorrelation model of pitch extraction, though the model outperformed observed performance at short durations suggesting an inability to make optimal use of available periodicity information in very brief tones.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)108-116
Number of pages9
JournalHearing Research
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Nov 2007


  • Memory
  • Music
  • Pitch
  • Psychophysics
  • Temporal integration


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