Congenital Amusia in linguistic and non-linguistic pitch perception: What behavior and reaction times reveal

Jasmin Pfeifer, Silke Hamann, Mats Exter


Congenital Amusia is a developmental disorder that has a negative influence on pitch perception. While it used to be described as a disorder of musical pitch perception, recent studies indicate that congenital amusics also show deficits in linguistic pitch perception. This study investigates the perception of linguistic and non-linguistic pitch by ten German amusics and their matched controls. To test the influence of amusia on linguistic pitch perception, the present study parametrically varied pitch differences in steps of one semitone in resynthesized statement-question pairs. In addition, we looked at the influence of stimulus duration, continuity of pitch and direction of pitch change (statement or question). Performance accuracy and reaction times were recorded. Behavioral results show that amusics performed worse than controls over all conditions. The reaction time analysis supports these findings, as amusics were significantly slower across all conditions. Both groups were faster in discriminating statements than questions. Performance accuracy supports these findings, as questions were also harder to discriminate. The present results warrant further investigation of the linguistic factors influencing amusics’ perception of intonation.


 DOI: 10.21437/SpeechProsody.2014-74

Cite as: Pfeifer, J., Hamann, S., Exter, M. (2014) Congenital Amusia in linguistic and non-linguistic pitch perception: What behavior and reaction times reveal. Proc. 7th International Conference on Speech Prosody 2014, 438-442, DOI: 10.21437/SpeechProsody.2014-74.


@inproceedings{Pfeifer2014,
  author={Jasmin Pfeifer and Silke Hamann and Mats Exter},
  title={{Congenital Amusia in linguistic and non-linguistic pitch perception: What behavior and reaction times reveal}},
  year=2014,
  booktitle={Proc. 7th International Conference on Speech Prosody 2014},
  pages={438--442},
  doi={10.21437/SpeechProsody.2014-74},
  url={http://dx.doi.org/10.21437/SpeechProsody.2014-74}
}