Tones and numbers: specificity of interference in immediate memory

Science. 1970 Jun 26;168(3939):1604-5. doi: 10.1126/science.168.3939.1604.


Recognition of the pitch of a tone was severely disrupted by the incorporation of six other tones during a 5-second retention interval, even though the intervening tones could be ignored. However, the requirement to recall six numbers spoken at equal loudness during the identical retention interval produced only a minimum decrement in the same pitch-recognition task. Further, the requirement to remember the tone produced no decrement in recall of the numbers. It is concluded that immediate memory for pitch is subject to a large interference effect which is highly specific in nature and which is not due to some limitation in general short-term memory capacity or to a distraction of attention.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Judgment*
  • Memory, Short-Term*
  • Pitch Discrimination*
  • Sound*