Graduation Year


Date of Thesis Acceptance

Spring 5-10-2017

Major Department or Program



Walter Herbranson


The tritone paradox is a phenomenon of auditory perception in which individuals perceive octave-ambiguous tritone intervals differently from other individuals. Although they are by definition ambiguous, it is unclear whether perception of these tritones can be manipulated. The purpose of this study was to determine if the perception of ambiguous tone pairs (tritones) is susceptible to priming, similar to ambiguous images. Participants listened to a series of tritone pairs and non-tritone pairs in the context of a Simon task and judged if the tones were ascending or descending. The results demonstrated that under some circumstances, perception of tritones can be primed. This supports a model of pitch perception that includes influence of external cues. Future research should focus on the difference between perceived and actual direction of primes, the possibility that some non-tritone intervals may also be ambiguous, and the importance of including participants from a wide range of linguistic and geographical backgrounds.

Keywords: auditory perception, cognitive psychology, octave-ambiguous tones, priming, Simon effect, stimulus ambiguity, tritone paradox

Page Count


Subject Headings

Auditory perception, Cognitive psychology, Pitch Perception, Tone -- Octave-ambiguous tones, Priming (Psychology), Simon effect, Stimulus Ambiguity, Tritone -- Tritone paradox, Social sciences, Whitman College -- Dissertation collection 2017 -- Psychology Department

Permanent URL

Document Type

Public Accessible Thesis

Included in

Psychology Commons



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