Absolute pitch (AP) is the rare ability to identify or produce a specific pitch without a reference pitch, which appears to be more prevalent in tone-language speakers than non-tone-language speakers. Numerous studies support a close relationship between AP, music, and language. Despite this relationship, the extent to which these factors contribute to the processing and encoding of pitch has not yet been investigated. Addressing this research question would provide insights into the relationship between music and language, as well as the mechanisms of AP. To this aim, we recruited AP musicians and non-AP musicians who were either tone-language (Mandarin and Cantonese) or non-tone language speakers. Participants completed a zero- and one-back working memory task using music and non-music (control) stimuli. In general, AP participants had better accuracy and faster reaction times than participants without AP. This effect remained even after controlling for the age at which participants began formal music lessons. We did not observe a performance advantage afforded by speaking a tone language, nor a cumulative advantage afforded by having AP and being a tone-language speaker.
- Received October 4, 2012.
- Accepted May 14, 2014.
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