Perception & Psychophysics

, Volume 52, Issue 6, pp 599–608 | Cite as

A study of perceptual development for musical tuning

  • Michael P. Lynch
  • Rebecca E. Eilers


Musical tuning perception in infancy and adulthood was explored in three experiments. In Experiment 1, Western adults were tested in detection of randomly located mistunings in a melody based on musical interval patterns from native and nonnative musical scales. Subjects performed better in a Western major scale context than in either a Western augmented or--a Javanese pelog scale context. Because the major scale is used frequently in Western music and, therefore, is more perceptually familiar than either the augmented scale or the pelog scale are, the adults’ pattern of performance is suggestive of musical acculturation. Experiments 2 and3 were designed to explore the onset of culturally specific perceptual reorganization for music in the age period that has been found to be important in linguistically specific perceptual reorganization for speech. In Experiment 2, 1-year-olds had a pattern of performance similar to that of the adults, but 6-month-olds could not detect mistunings reliably better than chance. In Experiment 3, another group of 6-month-olds was tested, and a larger degree of mistuning was used so that floor effects might be avoided. These 6-month-olds performed better in the major and augmented scale contexts than in the pelog context, without a reliable performance difference between the major and augmented contexts. Comparison of the results obtained with 6-month-olds and 1-year-olds suggests that culturally specific perceptual reorganization for musical tuning begins to affect perception between these ages, but the 6-month-olds’ pattern of results considered alone is not as clear. The 6-month-olds’ better performance on the major and augmented interval patterns than on the pelog interval pattern is potentially attributable to either the 6-month.olds’ lesser perceptual acculturation than that of the 1-year-olds or perhaps to an innate predisposition for processing of music based on a single fundamental interval, in this case the semitone.


False Alarm Rate Just Noticeable Difference Music Perception Change Trial Western Music 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Aslin, R. N., &Pisoni, D. B. (1980). Some developmental processes in speech perception. In G. H. Yeni-Komshian, J. F. Kavanagh, & C. A. Ferguson (Eds.),Child phonology: Vol. 2. Perception (pp. 67–96), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Balzano, G. I. (1980). The group-theoretic description of 12-fold and microtonal pitch systems.Computer Music Journal,4(4), 66–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Balzano, G. J. (1982). Musical vs. psychoacoustical variables and their influence on the perception of musical intervals.Bulletin of the Council for Research in Music Education,70, 1–11.Google Scholar
  4. Balzano, G. J. (1986a). Music perception as detection of pitch-time constraints. In V. McCabe & G. J. Balzano (Eds.),Event cognition: An ethological perspective (pp. 217–233). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  5. Balzano, G. J. (1986b). What are musical pitch and timbre?Music Perception,3, 297–314.Google Scholar
  6. Balzano, G. J. (1987). Measuring music. In A. Gabrielsson (Ed.),Action and perception in rhythm and music (pp. 177–199). Stockholm: Royal Swedish Academy of Music.Google Scholar
  7. Campbell, G. (1988).Expansions: A method for developing new material for improvisation. Lebanon, IN: Houston Publishing.Google Scholar
  8. Castellano, M. A., Bharucha, J. J., &Krumhansl, C. L. (1984). Tonal hierarchies in the music of North India.Journal of Experimental Psychology: General,113, 394–412.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cohen, A. J., Thorpe, L. A., &Trehub, S. E. (1987). Infants’ perception of musical relations in short transposed tone sequences.Canadian Journal of Psychology,41, 33–47.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Cohen, A. J., Trehub, S. E., &Thorpe, L. A. (1989). Effects of uncertainty on melodic information processing.Perception & Psychophysics,46, 18–28.Google Scholar
  11. Cuddy, L. L., Cohen, A. J., &Mewhort, D. J. K. (1981). Perception of structure in short melodic sequences.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception & Performance,7, 869–883.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cunoy, L. L., Cohen, A. J., &Miller, J. (1979). Melody recognition: The experimental application of musical rules.Canadian Journal of Psychology,33, 148–157.Google Scholar
  13. Dowling, W. J. (1978). Scale and contour: Two components of a theory of memory for melodies.Psychological Review,85, 341–354.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dowling, W. J., &Harwood, D. L. (1986).Music cognition. New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  15. Eileas, R. E.,&Gavin, W. J. (1981). The evaluation of infant speech perception skills: Statistical techniques and theory development. In R. E. Stark (Ed.),Language behavior in infancy and early childhood (pp. 185–213). Amsterdam: Elsevier North-Holland.Google Scholar
  16. Eilers, R. E., Wilson, W. R., &Moore, J. M. (1977). Developmental changes in speech discrimination in infants.Journal ofSpeech & Hearing Research,20, 766–780.Google Scholar
  17. Green, D. M., &Swets, J. A. (1966).Signal detection theory and psychophysics. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  18. Hulse, S. H., &Page, S. C. (1988). Toward a comparative psychology of music perception.Music Perception,5, 427–452.Google Scholar
  19. Johnson, M. H., &Morton, J. (1991).Biology and cognitive development: The case of face recognition. Cambridge, U.K.: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  20. Kessler, E. J., Hansen, C., &Shepard, R. N. (1984). Tonal schemata in the perception of music in Bali and in the West.Music Perception,2, 131–165.Google Scholar
  21. Krumhansl, C. L. (1990).Cognitive foundations of musical pitch. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  22. Krumhansl, C. L., &Keil, F. C. (1982). Acquisition of the hierarchy of tonal functions in music.Memory & Cognition,10, 243–251.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kuhl, P. K., Williams, K. A., Lacerde, F., Stevens, K. N., &Lindblom, B. (1992). Linguistic experience alters phonetic perception in infants by 6 months of age.Science,255, 606–608.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Kunst, J. (1973).Music in Java: Its history, its theory and its technique. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff.Google Scholar
  25. Lerdahl, F., &Jackendoff, R. (1983).Agenerative theory of tonal music. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  26. Lynch, M. P., Eilers, R. E., Oller, D. K., &Urbano, R. C. (1990). Innateness, experience, and music perception.Psychological Science,1, 272–276.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Lynch, M. P., Eilers, R. E., Oller, D. K., Urbano, R. C., &Wilson, P. (1991). Influences of acculturation and musical sophistication on perception of musical interval patterns.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception & Performance,17, 967–975.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Macmillan, N. A., &Kaplan, H. L. (1985). Detection theory analysis of group data: Estimating sensitivity from average hit and false alarm rates.Psychological Bulletin,98, 185–199.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Malm, W. P. (1977).Music cultures of the Pacific, the Near East, and Asia (2nd ed). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  30. Massaro, D. W. (1975).Erperimental psychology and information processing. Chicago: Rand McNally.Google Scholar
  31. Nettl, B. (1956).Music in primitive culture. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Olsho, L. W., Schoon, C., Sakai, R., Turpin, R., &Sperduto, V. (1982). Auditory frequency discrimination in infancy.Developmental Psychology,18, 721–726.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Shepard, R. N., &Jordan, D. S. (1984). Auditory illusions demonstrating that tones are assimilated to an internalized musical scale.Science,226, 1333–1334.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. Swets, J. A. (Ed.). (1964).Signal detection and recognition by human observers: Contemporary readings. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  35. Thorpe, L. A., &Trehub, S. E. (1989). Duration illusion and auditory grouping in infancy.Developmental Psychology,25, 122–127.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Thorpe, L. A., Trehub, S. E., Morrongiello, B. A., &Bull, D. (1988). Perceptual grouping by infants and preschool children.Developmental Psychology,24, 484–491.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Trainor, L. J., &Trehub, S. E. (1992). A comparison of infants’ and adults’ sensitivity to Western musical structure.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception & Performance,18, 394–402.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Trehub, S. E., Cohen, A. J., Thorpe, L. A., &Morrongiello, B. A. (1986). Development of the perception of musical relations: Semitone and diatonic structure.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception & Performance,12, 295–301.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Trehub, S. E., Thorpe, L. A., &Trainor, L. J. (1990). Infants’ perception ofgood andbad melodies.Psychomusicology,9, 5–15.Google Scholar
  40. Werker, J. F., Gilbert, J. H. V., Humphrey, K., &Tees, R. C. (1981). Developmental aspects of cross-language speech perception.Child Development,52, 349–355.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  41. Werker, J. F., &Tees, R. C. (1984). Cross-language speech perception: Evidence for perceptual reorganization during the first year of life.Infant Behavior & Development,7, 49–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Audiology & Speech SciencesPurdue UniversityWest Lafayette
  2. 2.University of MiamiCoral Gables

Personalised recommendations