Pitch perception and retention: two cumulative benefits of selective attention

Percept Psychophys. 2004 May;66(4):609-17. doi: 10.3758/bf03194905.


By presenting, before a "chord" of three pure tones with remote frequencies, a tone relatively close in frequency to one component (T1) of the chord, one can direct the listener's attention onto T1 within the chord. In the first part of the present study, it was found that this increases the accuracy with which the pitch of T1 is perceived. The attentional cue improved the discrimination between the frequency of T1 and that of another tone (T2) presented immediately after the chord or very shortly (300 msec) after it. No improvement was found when T1 was presented alone instead of within a chord. A subsequent experiment, in which the chord and T2 were separated by either 300 msec or 4 sec, indicated that the attentional cue improved not only the perception, but also the memorization of the pitch of T1 (especially when T1 was the intermediate component of the chord). It is argued that the positive effect of attention on memory took place when the pitch percept was encoded into memory, rather than after the formation of the pitch memory trace.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attention*
  • Cues
  • Humans
  • Memory
  • Pitch Perception*
  • Retention, Psychology*