Grouping in pitch perception: effects of onset asynchrony and ear of presentation of a mistuned component

J Acoust Soc Am. 1992 Jun;91(6):3381-90. doi: 10.1121/1.402828.


Three experiments investigated how the onset asynchrony and ear of presentation of a single mistuned frequency component influence its contribution to the pitch of an otherwise harmonic complex tone. Subjects matched the pitch of the target complex by adjusting the pitch of a second similar but strictly periodic complex tone. When the mistuned component (the 4th harmonic of a 155 Hz fundamental) started 160 ms or more before the remaining harmonics but stopped simultaneously with them, it made a reduced contribution to the pitch of the complex. It made no contribution if it started more than 300 ms before. Pitch shifts and their reduction with onset time were larger for short (90 ms) sounds than for long (410 ms). Pitch shifts were slightly larger when the mistuned component was presented to the same ear as the remaining 11 in-tune harmonics than to the opposite ear. Adding a "captor" complex tone with a fundamental of 200 Hz and a missing 3rd harmonic to the contralateral ear did not augment the effect of onset time, even though the captor was synchronous with the mistuned harmonic, the mistuned component was equal in frequency to the missing 3rd harmonic of the captor complex tone and it was played to the same ear as the captor. The results show that a difference in onset time can prevent a resolved frequency component from contributing to the pitch of a complex tone even though it is present throughout that complex tone.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation / methods
  • Attention*
  • Dichotic Listening Tests
  • Dominance, Cerebral*
  • Humans
  • Pitch Discrimination*
  • Psychoacoustics
  • Sound Spectrography