Brief Report

Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

, Volume 20, Issue 4, pp 747-753

First online:

Auditory imagery and the poor-pitch singer

  • Peter Q. PfordresherAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University at Buffalo Email author 
  • , Andrea R. HalpernAffiliated withPsychology Department, Bucknell University Email author 


The vocal imitation of pitch by singing requires one to plan laryngeal movements on the basis of anticipated target pitch events. This process may rely on auditory imagery, which has been shown to activate motor planning areas. As such, we hypothesized that poor-pitch singing, although not typically associated with deficient pitch perception, may be associated with deficient auditory imagery. Participants vocally imitated simple pitch sequences by singing, discriminated pitch pairs on the basis of pitch height, and completed an auditory imagery self-report questionnaire (the Bucknell Auditory Imagery Scale). The percentage of trials participants sung in tune correlated significantly with self-reports of vividness for auditory imagery, although not with the ability to control auditory imagery. Pitch discrimination was not predicted by auditory imagery scores. The results thus support a link between auditory imagery and vocal imitation.


Auditory imagery Vocal imitation Poor-pitch singing Perception and action