frequency theory

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A theory of pitch perception first proposed in 1886 by the British physiologist William Rutherford (1839–99) according to which the ear converts acoustic vibrations into nerve impulses by emitting one impulse for each cycle of the sound wave in the manner of a telephone. This mechanism is believed to operate for low-frequency sounds, but because an auditory neuron can respond up to only about 500 hertz, this theory cannot explain the perception of higher-pitched sounds within the audibility range. Also called the telephone theory. Compare place theory, volley theory.

Subjects: Psychology.

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