Infant pitch perception: Missing fundamental melody discrimination

Bonnie K. Lau, Kaylah Lalonde, Monika Maria Oster, Lynne A. Werner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Although recent results show that 3-month-olds can discriminate complex tones by their missing fundamental, it is arguable whether they are discriminating on the basis of a perceived pitch. A defining characteristic of pitch is that it carries melodic information. This study investigated whether 3-month-olds, 7-month-olds, and adults can detect a change in a melody composed of missing fundamental complexes. Participants heard a seven-note melody and learned to respond to a change that violated the melodic contour. To ensure that participants were responding on the basis of pitch, the notes in the melody had missing fundamentals and varied in spectral content on each presentation. In experiment I, all melodies had the same absolute pitch, while in experiment II, the melodies were randomly transposed into one of three different keys on each presentation. Almost all participants learned to ignore the spectral changes and respond to the changed note of the melody in both experiments, strengthening the argument that complex tones elicit a sense of musical pitch in infants. These results provide evidence that complex pitch perception is functional by 3 months of age.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)65-72
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the Acoustical Society of America
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Acoustics and Ultrasonics


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