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We investigated how different psychophysical procedures affect frequency discrimination performance in children. Four studies used a design in which listeners heard two tone pairs and had to identify whether the first or second pair contained a higher frequency target tone. Thresholds for 6- and 7-year-olds were higher than those for 8- and 9-year-olds and adults. Two manipulations led to lower (better) thresholds in young children: (a) moving the standard comparison tone before the target tone and (b) using three target comparison tone pairs. It is suggested that young children benefit from designs that help cue them to when they need to attend to a target tone. The two-interval, forced-choice procedure that is widely used in studies of developmental disorders led to variable performance even in adults and did not give a realistic picture of the perceptual capabilities of children under 8 years of age.

Original publication




Journal article


J Exp Child Psychol

Publication Date





249 - 270


Adult, Analysis of Variance, Auditory Threshold, Child, Child Development, Female, Humans, Male, Perceptual Masking, Pitch Discrimination, Psychoacoustics, Research Design