Is Hey Jude in the Right Key? Cognitive Components of Absolute Pitch Memory

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Most individuals, regardless of formal musical training, have long-term absolute pitch memory (APM) for familiar musical recordings, though with varying levels of accuracy. The present study followed up on recent evidence suggesting an association between singing accuracy and APM (Halpern & Pfordresher, 2022, Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 84(1), 260–269), as well as tonal short-term memory (STM) and APM (Van Hedger et al., 2018, Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 71(4), 879–891). Participants from three research sites (n = 108) completed a battery of tasks including APM, tonal STM, singing accuracy, and self-reported auditory imagery. Both tonal STM and singing accuracy predicted APM, replicating prior results. Tonal STM also predicted singing accuracy, music training, and auditory imagery. Further tests suggested that the association between APM and singing accuracy was fully mediated by tonal STM. This pattern comports well with models of vocal pitch matching that include STM for pitch as a mechanism for sensorimotor translation.


Memory & Cognition




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