Pitch change, sonification, and musical expertise: Which way is up?
Neuhoff, J. G.
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Frequency change is one of the most widely used acoustic dimensions in auditory display, and pitch perception is among the most widely researched topics in audition. Nonetheless, there is little research on the appropriate mapping and scaling of information to acoustic frequency in sonification. Here, we show that musical training is a contributing factor to the mapping, scaling, and conceptual relationships that exist between the information to be sonified and its acoustic representation. In Experiment 1, three groups of listeners that varied in musical expertise moved a slider to indicate the amount of pitch change that they heard in ten non-standard musical intervals. Listeners with more musical training showed greater slider movement in response to pitch change than musical novices, but not in response to brightness in a visual control condition. Novices also made significantly more errors in identifying the direction of pitch change for intervals that were well above discrimination thresholds. Experiment 2 showed that the errors by novices were due primarily to conceptual errors in labeling `rising' and `falling' pitch with a small but significant number of perceptual discrimination errors. The results suggest that musical training is an important factor in the mapping, scaling, and conceptual relationships used in sonification.