Clarkson, M.G., Clifton, R.K. (1985). Infant pitch perception: Evidence for responding to pitch categories and the missing fundamental. J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 77, 1521-1528
While numerous studies on infant perception have demonstrated the infant's ability to discriminate sounds having different frequencies, little research has evaluated more sophisticated pitch perception abilities such as perceptual constancy and perception of the missing fundamental. In the present study 7-8 month-old infants demonstrated the ability to discriminate harmonic complexes from two pitch categories that differed in pitch by approximately 20% (e.g., 160 vs. 200 Hz). Using a visually reinforced conditioned head-turning paradigm, a number of spectrally different tonal complexes that contained varying harmonic components but signaled the same two pitch categories were presented. After learning the basic pitch discrimination, the same infants learned to categorize spectrally different tonal complexes according to the pitches signaled by their fundamental frequencies. That is, the infants showed evidence of perceptual constancy for the pitch of harmonic complexes. Finally, infants heard tonal complexes that signaled the same pitch categories but for which the fundamental frequency was removed. Infants were still able to categorize the harmonic complexes according to their pitch categories. These results suggest that by 7 months of age infants show fairly sophisticated pitch perception abilities similar to those demonstrated by adults.