Pitch perception

Alain de Cheveigné

in Oxford Handbook of Auditory Science: Hearing

Published in print January 2010 | ISBN: 9780199233557
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

 Pitch perception

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  • Psychology
  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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Pitch is the main perceptual dimension of western music, and has important roles in speech perception and in sound segregation. Pitch (or its physical correlate, periodicity) is important to segregate sound sources. This article describes how the sensation depends on the spectral, temporal, and binaural properties of sounds, and provides an overview of models of pitch perception. Pitch is basic to two forms of behaviour specific to humans: speech and music. It is usually understood as a one-dimensional percept determined by the period of the stimulus, and insensitive to changes along other stimulus dimensions. The article shows how the perceptions may relate to the physiological properties of auditory neurons, particularly their ability to ‘phase lock’ to periodic sounds, and describes recent hypotheses regarding neural pitch processing in the auditory brain. Investigation tools for pitch include psychophysics, electrophysiology in animals, brain imaging in humans, and theoretical and engineering approaches in artificial systems.

Keywords: pitch; perception; sound segregation; auditory neurons; phase lock

Article.  18850 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Cognitive Psychology ; Cognitive Neuroscience

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