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You are here: McMaster Institute for Music and the Mind > Publications > Sensory consonance and the perceptual similarity of complex-tone harmonic intervals: tests of adult and infant listeners.

E G Schellenberg and L J Trainor (1996)

Sensory consonance and the perceptual similarity of complex-tone harmonic intervals: tests of adult and infant listeners.

J Acoust Soc Am, 100(5):3321-8.

Two experiments examined the influence of sensory consonance on the perceptual similarity of simultaneous pairs of complex tones (harmonic intervals). In experiment 1, adults heard a sequence of five consonant intervals (each a perfect fifth, or 7 semitones) and judged whether a subsequently presented test intervalwas a member of the sequence. Discrimination performance was better when the test interval was dissonant (tritone, 6 semitones) rather than consonant (perfect fourth, 5 semitones), despite the fact that the change in interval width was twice as great for the consonant than for the dissonant comparison. In experiment 2, 7-month-old infants were tested with an operant headturn procedure in a similar design and exhibited an identical pattern of responding. Hence, for bothage groups, consonance was more important than interval width in determining theperceived similarity of harmonic intervals.

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