Date of Award




Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Department of Psychology


Cognitive Psychology

Content Description

1 online resource (iii, 46 pages) : illustrations (some color), music.

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

W T Neill

Committee Members

Ronald Friedman


cognition, memory, music, prototype, psychology, transposition, Recognition (Psychology), Music, Tonality, Memory, Music memorizing, Melodic analysis

Subject Categories

Cognitive Psychology | Music


People easily recognize a melody in a previously unheard key, but they also retain some key-specific information. I tested the hypothesis that individuals compare novel melodies to a memory “prototype” representing the central tendency of experienced exemplars. Participants were familiarized with a monotonic eight-note melody in two closely separated keys and tested for discrimination of that melody from others. Test and foil melodies included ones that were the “average” of pitch heights and ones that were more distant in pitch height. Hit rates and discriminability (d') were better for physically closer keys than for harmonically related keys. In follow-up experiments, the same paradigm was investigated with unfamiliar stimuli (whole- and quarter-tones) and with a longer retention interval between initial and final test (48 hour delay). The results suggest that melody recognition depends on proximity to pitch-specific memories rather than an abstract prototype and question the common assumption that key abstraction is crucial to memory for melodies.