Researchers who design tests involving judgments of pitch face the persistent problem that test subjects may remember a pitch associated with one test item and carry that memory over to the next item. This immediate memory does weaken with time, but it weakens quite slowly. Although a number of studies report attempts to "erase" subjects' impressions by inserting distracting sounds— white noise bursts, electronically generated tone glides, excerpts from Schoenberg's Piano Concerto— between trials, no systematic study of the efficacy of pitch eraser patterns has yet been undertaken. An initial attempt was made to identify and measure a reasonably short list of variable attributes of distractor tones that might undo a listener's memory for the pitch of a test tone. Those variables were the length of the series of distractor tones, the rate at which distractor tones were presented, and the temperament system—or lack of it—used to tune distractor tones. Test results indicate that tuning variables have little effect on listeners' accuracy at identifying test tones. Series length and presentation rate, however, both have a strong effect on accuracy levels for pitch memory.

References

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