A fundamental residue pitch perception bias for tone language speakers
Petitti, Elizabeth Marie
MetadataShow full item record
A complex tone composed of only higher-order harmonics typically elicits a pitch percept equivalent to the tone's missing fundamental frequency (f0). When judging the direction of residue pitch change between two such tones, however, listeners may have completely opposite perceptual experiences depending on whether they are biased to perceive changes based on the overall spectrum or the missing f0 (harmonic spacing). Individual differences in residue pitch change judgments are reliable and have been associated with musical experience and functional neuroanatomy. Tone languages put greater pitch processing demands on their speakers than non-tone languages, and we investigated whether these lifelong differences in linguistic pitch processing affect listeners' bias for residue pitch. We asked native tone language speakers and native English speakers to perform a pitch judgment task for two tones with missing fundamental frequencies. Given tone pairs with ambiguous pitch changes, listeners were asked to judge the direction of pitch change, where the direction of their response indicated whether they attended to the overall spectrum (exhibiting a spectral bias) or the missing f0 (exhibiting a fundamental bias). We found that tone language speakers are significantly more likely to perceive pitch changes based on the missing f0 than English speakers. These results suggest that tone-language speakers' privileged experience with linguistic pitch fundamentally tunes their basic auditory processing.