Two experiments examined whether discrimination of component pitches in a harmonic interval is affected by the consonance or dissonance of the interval. A single probe pitch (B or C) was followed by a two note harmonic interval including that pitch (e.g., C then C-F# or C-G) or not including it (e.g., C then B-F# or B-G). On each trial, subjects indicated by key press whether the probe note was repeated in the following interval. The target note in the interval either matched the probe or differed by one semitone (B or C). The other note produced a consonant (e.g., perfect fifth) or dissonant (e.g., tritone) context for the target. Pitch discrimination was faster and more accurate in consonant intervals than dissonant, when the context note was higher than the target (Experiment 1), but there was no effect of consonance when the target was higher (Experiment 2). We conclude that the perception of the lower but not the upper pitch in a two note harmonic interval is affected by the interval’s consonance or dissonance. We discuss the results in terms of the theoretical framework of processing fluency and aesthetics proposed by Winkielman, Schwarz, Fazendeiro, and Reber (2003).

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