Absolute memory for pitch: A comparative replication of Levitin's 1994 study in six European labs

Frieler, K.; Fischinger, T.; Schlemmer, K.; Lothwesen, K.; Jakubowski, Kelly and Müllensiefen, Daniel. 2013. Absolute memory for pitch: A comparative replication of Levitin's 1994 study in six European labs. Musicae Scientiae, 17(3), pp. 334-349. ISSN 1029-8649 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

In a widely cited study, Levitin (1994) suggested the existence of absolute pitch memory for music in
the general population beyond the rare trait of genuine absolute pitch (AP). In his sample, a significant
proportion of non-AP possessors were able to reproduce absolute pitch levels when asked to sing very
familiar pop songs from memory. Forty-four percent of participants sang the correct pitch on at least one
of two trials, and 12% were correct on both trials. However, until now, no replication of this study has
ever been published. The current paper presents the results of a large replication endeavour across six different labs in Germany and the UK. All labs used the same methodology, carefully replicating Levitin’s original experiment. In each lab, between 40 and 50 participants were tested (N = 277). Participants were asked to sing two different pop songs of their choice. All sung productions were compared to the original songs. Twenty-five percent of the participants sang the exact pitch of at least one of the two chosen songs and 4% hit the right pitches for both songs. Our results generally confirm the findings of Levitin (1994).
However, the results differ considerably across laboratories, and the estimated overall effect using meta-
analysis techniques was significantly smaller than Levitin’s original result. This illustrates the variability
of empirical findings derived from small sample sizes and corroborates the need for replication and meta-
analytical studies in music psychology in general.

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August 2013Published

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13 May 2014 11:14

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04 Jul 2017 10:16

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



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