Black-capped chickadee (Poecile atricapillus) and human (Homo sapiens) chord discriminations.

Marisa Heoschele, Robert Cook, Lauren Guillette, Daniel Brooks, Christopher Sturdy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Human music perception is related both to musical experience and the physical properties of sound. Examining the processing of music by nonhuman animals has been generally neglected. We tested both black-capped chickadees and humans in a chord discrimination task that replicates and extends prior research with pigeons. We found that chickadees and humans, in common with pigeons, showed similar patterns of discrimination across manipulations of the 3rd and 5th notes of the triadic chords. For all species (chickadee and humans here, pigeons previously), chords with half-step alterations in the 5th note were easier to discriminate than half-step manipulations of the 3rd note, which is likely due to the sensory consonance of these chords. There were differences among species in terms of the fine discrimination of the chords within this larger pattern of results. Further, the ability to relearn the chords when transposed to a new root differed across species. Our results provide new comparative data suggesting some similarities in chord perception that span a wide range of species, from pigeons (nonvocal learners) to songbirds and humans (vocal learners).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57-67
JournalJournal of Comparative Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 2011


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