Sensory consonance and the perceptual similarity of complex‐tone harmonic intervals: Tests of adult and infant listeners
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Two experiments examined the influence of sensory consonance on the perceptual similarity of simultaneous pairs of complex tones (harmonic intervals). In experiment 1, adults heard a sequence of five consonant intervals (each a perfect fifth, or 7 semitones) and judged whether a subsequently presented test interval was a member of the sequence. Discrimination performance was better when the test interval was dissonant (tritone, 6 semitones) rather than consonant (perfect fourth, 5 semitones), despite the fact that the change in interval width was twice as great for the consonant than for the dissonant comparison. In experiment 2, 7-month-old infants were tested with an operant headturn procedure in a similar design and exhibited an identical pattern of responding. Hence, for both age groups, consonance was more important than interval width in determining the perceived similarity of harmonic intervals.
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