Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Psychology


Cognitive Psychology

Content Description

1 online resource (vii, 88 pages) : color illustrations, music.

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

James Neill

Committee Members

W. T Neill, Ronald Friedman


Diatonicity, pitch memory, probe tone task, Diatonicism, Tonality, Musical perception, Memory, Musical pitch, Sound

Subject Categories

Cognitive Psychology


Prior research (e.g., Krumhansl, 1979) using a delayed recognition task has found a memory advantage for standard (to-be-remembered) tones that belong to the key of a tonal context (diatonic tones) over those that do not belong to the key of a tonal context (nondiatonic tones). The advantage is purportedly due to the tonal context differentially supporting diatonic over nondiatonic tones. However, this research confounded a change in pitch with a change in diatonicity, raising the possibility that participants were responding to the diatonicity change rather than relying on memory for the standard tone’s pitch specifically. More recent studies (e.g., Frankland and Cohen, 1996; Farbood and Mavromatis, 2018) using alternate methodologies have found some evidence for an effect of the diatonicity of the comparison tone, in addition to the standard tone, raising further questions about the importance of the diatonicity of a to-be-remembered stimulus in how well that stimulus is remembered in a tonal context. Three experiments are presented which explore these questions. Experiments 1 and 2 are partial replications and extensions of Krumhansl (1979). Participants heard standard tones (which could be diatonic or nondiatonic to the subsequent context) followed by a tonal context (always presented in C major for Experiment 1, or randomly chosen between C major and C# major for Experiment 2) and then a comparison tone (which could also be diatonic or nondiatonic to the context), and were tasked with judging if the two tones were the same pitch. Crucially, Experiments 1 and 2 included trials in which the diatonicity did not change between standard andcomparison tones but the pitch did. These trials were included to partially address the confound present in Krumhansl (1979). To further address that confound, Experiment 3 replicated Experiment 2 using only the trials in which the diatonicity of the standard and comparison tones matched (i.e., both diatonic or both nondiatonic). This insured that diatonicity match between the standard and comparison tones could not be responsible for any differences in memory between conditions. The results indicated two complementary effects: performance improved for diatonic (vs. nondiatonic) standard tones, but for nondiatonic (vs. diatonic) comparison tones. Analysis using signal detection theory indicated a response bias toward responding “same” for diatonic comparison tones and away from responding “same” for nondiatonic comparison tones. Some implications of these results for the broader study of memory for tonal stimuli are discussed