Absolute pitch in boreal chickadees and humans: exceptions that test a phylogenetic rule
pitch height, pitch chroma, songbirds, humans, music, frequency range, boreal chickadees, absolute pitch, animals
This research examined generality of the phylogenetic rule that birds discriminate frequency ranges more accurately than mammals. Human absolute pitch chroma possessors accurately tracked transitions between frequency ranges. Independent tests showed that they used note naming (pitch chroma) to remap the tones into ranges; neither possessors nor nonpossessors were accurate at octave (pitch height) naming. Boreal chickadees discriminated frequency ranges less accurately than other birds; they tracked reward across several lower frequency ranges but failed at frequencies over 4000 Hz. The results revealed the error of describing species differences solely in terms of their discrimination of frequency ranges. Exceptions to the rule disappear when the rule is restated in terms of underlying mechanism: birds are superior to mammals in the ability to use absolute pitch height perception to discriminate pitches and ranges of pitches.
Weisman, R. G., Balkwill, L.-L., Hoeschele, M., Moscicki, M. K., Bloomfield, L. L., & Sturdy, C. B. (2010). Absolute pitch in boreal chickadees and humans: exceptions that test a phylogenetic rule. Learning and Motivation, 41(3), 156–173. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.lmot.2010.04.002
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