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Birds Deal With "Cocktail Party Effect"

d a rising sequence of tones, and the other when they heard a descending sequence. To his astonishment, the birds were not especially sensitive to whether the sequences went up or down in pitch. Instead, they possess a trait rarely found in people, called absolute pitch, which enables them to immediately identify the pitch of an isolated tone. The implication is that the birds may use this talent to communicate with each other, recognizing individual birds by the pitch of some parts or all of their song.

Research into absolute pitch in birds led to his current work on the cocktail party effect, designed to learn whether birds have the ability to pay selective attention to one sound that occurs simultaneously with one or more other sounds.

Other scientists, including Peter Jusczyk at Johns Hopkins, have studied the cocktail party effect in humans. Jusczyk, an experimental psychologist, has studied how infants are able to concentrate on one voice that is mixed with background sounds. The ability may help them learn language quickly; by tuning out the extraneous noise, babies are able to focus on the grammar and rhythm of language.


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Contact: Emil Venere
Emil@jhu.edu
410-516-7160
Johns Hopkins University
1-Feb-1997


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