2pMUb7. Mothers and their children hear a musical illusion in strikingly similar ways.

Session: Tuesday Afternoon, May 14

Time: 3:40

Author: Diana Deutsch
Location: Dept. of Psych., Univ. of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093


A two-tone pattern, known as the tritone paradox, has certain curious properties. It is heard as ascending when played in one key, yet as descending when played in a different way. Further, when the pattern is played in any one key it is heard as ascending by some listeners but as descending by others. Perception of this pattern has been found to vary in correlation with the geographical region in which the listener grew up, and also with the pitch range of the listener's speaking voice [D. Deutsch, Philos. Trans. R. Soc. London Ser. B 336, 391--397 (1992)]. A striking correlation is here reported between how a listener hears this pattern and how his or her mother hears it. Fifteen subjects (ten children and five adults) were studied. The subjects were all Californians; however their mothers had grown up in diverse geographical regions, including England, the European continent, and various parts of the United States. The perceptions of all the subjects corresponded more closely to those of their respective mothers than to the average of all the mothers; this effect was highly significant statistically. Implications of these findings are discussed.

from ASA 131st Meeting, Indianapolis, May 1996