Absolute Pitch as a Learned Phenomenon:

Evidence Consistent with the Hick-Hyman Law

Jasba Simpson and David Huron
Music Perception, Vol. 12, No. 2 (1994) pp. 267-270.


An analysis of reaction time data collected by Miyazaki (1989) provides additional support for absolute pitch as a learned phenomenon. Specifically, the data are shown to be consistent with the Hick-Hyman law, which relates the reaction time for a given stimulus to its expected frequency of occurrence. The frequencies of occurrence are estimated by analyzing a computer-based sample of Western music. The results are consistent with the view that absolute pitch is acquired through ordinary exposure to the pitches of Western music.

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