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28.07.2017 | Research Article | Ausgabe 6/2017 Open Access

Journal of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology 6/2017

Effect of Context on the Contribution of Individual Harmonics to Residue Pitch

Journal of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology > Ausgabe 6/2017
Hedwig E. Gockel, Sami Alsindi, Charles Hardy, Robert P. Carlyon


There is evidence that the contribution of a given harmonic in a complex tone to residue pitch is influenced by the accuracy with which the frequency of that harmonic is encoded. The present study investigated whether listeners adjust the weights assigned to individual harmonics based on acquired knowledge of the reliability of the frequency estimates of those harmonics. In a two-interval forced-choice task, seven listeners indicated which of two 12-harmonic complex tones had the higher overall pitch. In context trials (60 % of all trials), the fundamental frequency (F0) was 200 Hz in one interval and 200 + ΔF0 Hz in the other. In different (blocked) conditions, either the 3rd or the 4th harmonic (plus the 7th, 9th, and 12th harmonics), were replaced by narrowband noises that were identical in the two intervals. Feedback was provided. In randomly interspersed test trials (40 % of all trials), the fundamental frequency was 200 + ΔF0/2 Hz in both intervals; in the second interval, either the third or the fourth harmonic was shifted slightly up or down in frequency with equal probability. There were no narrowband noises. Feedback was not provided. The results showed that substitution of a harmonic by noise in context trials reduced the contribution of that harmonic to pitch judgements in the test trials by a small but significant amount. This is consistent with the notion that listeners give smaller weight to a harmonic or frequency region when they have learned that this frequency region does not provide reliable information for a given task.

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