Using real-world tasks and cross-cultural approaches to examine the perception of harmonic sounds
Speaker: Malinda McPherson
Abstract: Some of the most important sounds humans hear, including speech and music, are harmonic, and can be defined in part by their pitch. Despite their significance in everyday hearing, harmonic sounds have often been studied in settings that are deficient relative to the immense diversity of situations in which humans naturally encounter such sounds. In this talk I will discuss novel approaches that integrate real-world listening tasks and cross-cultural research to re-examine classic questions in pitch perception and auditory scene analysis. I will describe recent findings that pitch perception fractionates into at least two distinct perceptual mechanisms, one of which appears to help listeners compress sounds into memory. I will also present evidence that harmonic structure is important for detecting and discriminating sounds in noise, as well as findings indicating that the basic perceptual apparatus for hearing combinations of harmonic notes (consonant and dissonant intervals in Western music) is similar across cultures.