Verification of the optimal probabilistic basis of aural processing in pitch of complex tones

J. L. Goldstein, A. Gerson, P. Srulovicz, M. Furst

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30 Scopus citations


Periodicity pitch for complex tones has been quantitatively accounted for by a two-stage process of Fourier-frequency analysis subject to random errors and significant nonlinearities, followed by an harmonic pattern recognizer that makes an optimum probabilistic estimate of the fundamental period of musical and speech sounds. The theory predicts that periodicity pitch is a multimodal probabilistic function of a given stimulus. A clear and empirically supported distinction is made between limitations on the pitch mechanism caused by the stochastic nature of aural frequency representation and by the deterministic resolution bandwidths of aural frequency analysis. This model was developed earlier [J. L. Goldstein, J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 54, 1496–1516 (1973)] to account for probabilistic data on pitch errors [A. J. M. Houtsma and J. L. Goldstein, J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 51, 520 (1972)] measured with periodic stimuli comprising two successive harmonics. This paper presents new predictions by the theory that were calculated, with computer simulation where needed, for known probabilistic pitch data from stimuli comprising three to six successive harmonics. Predicted pitch errors increase with increasing errors in estimating the frequencies of stimulus harmonics and decrease as more harmonics are added to the stimulus. Optimum processor theory fully accounts for the multicomponent pitch data on the basis of similar errors in estimating component stimulus frequencies as reported earlier, thus providing further evidence for the optimum probabilistic basis of aural signal processing in pitch of complex tones.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)486-497
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of the Acoustical Society of America
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1978


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