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Re: effects of musical experience on pitch perception?


We know that pitch and timbre are separable attributes, so the task you give your participants is a reasonable one. The JNDs for pitch and timbre are not considered that different for musicians and non-musicians. It sounds to me like there might be a methodological issue to address. To better understand the lack of difference in performance between your groups, I'd want to know three things:

1) What were the means and standard deviations you observed for each group? We should run a power analysis to see if the lack of statistical difference is merely a problem with low power. Also, you don't say in your posting what the actual performance levels were, but obviously we would need to rule out floor and ceiling effects. (You didn't say wht the differences in pitch and timbre are in your stimulus set -- are they below the JND, making the task too difficult?)

2) How are you defining musicians versus non-musicians? (That is, the way you distinguish groups may be giving you heterogeneity of participants where you want homogeneity)

3) What were the procedures involved in the demonstration?

--Dan Levitin

Daniel J. Levitin, Ph.D., Associate Professor
Bell Chair in Psychology of Electronic Communication
McGill University
Department of Psychology
1205 Avenue Penfield
Montreal, QC H3A 1B1



Date:    Fri, 14 Jul 2006 09:26:16 -0400
From:    "G. Robert Arrabito" <Robert.Arrabito@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Subject: effects of musical experience on pitch perception?

Dear list,

I am writing to get some input from the list that may help me
interpret my data.  Specifically, I recently ran a study that
investigated the effect of timbre on pitch perception for two groups
of eight participants who had normal hearing: those who had formal
experience playing a musical instrument (musicians), and those who
had no formal experience playing a musical instrument
(nonmusicians).  Prior to participation in the experimental session,
each participant was given a detailed demonstration of pitch and
timbre, and then was evaluated in a training session that screened to
ensure that he/she understood these attributes.  A score of chance or
better was required to proceed to the experimental session.  I note
that 7/15 (46.67% of the musicians failed the training procedure and
22/30 (73.33%) of the nonmusicians failed the training procedure.  In
analyzing my data, I found no statistical difference in performance
between musicians and nonmusicians.  I am thus wondering whether this
might be due to my training procedure or whether pitch/timbre is an
inherent "skill" regardless of any formal musical experience.  (I
acknowledge that studies have reported mixed outcomes on musical
experience.)  Any comments or suggestions for recommended reading
that would help me put things into perspective would be greatly appreciated.



Robert Arrabito
Defence R&D Canada - Toronto
1133 Sheppard Avenue West
P.O. Box 2000
Toronto, ON  M3M 3B9

phone: (416) 635-2033
CSN: 634-2033
fax: (416) 635-2013
e-mail: Robert.Arrabito@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx