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Preschool children have shown limited understanding of the relational concept of pitch direction. It was theorized that this difficulty could be due to perceptual focus, or to methodological difficulties in measuring such a response. Children, aged 3.5 to 5, were tested on discrimination and categorization tasks using a 2+1 oddity format with 3-note unidirectional pitch patterns that incorporated two absolute features: pitch set and first note. The aural stimuli were presented via an Apple computer with a touch screen which permitted a nonverbal response and the opportunity for reinspection of the exemplars. In the discrimination test, the younger children tended to focus on an absolute feature, but the 5-year-olds showed a marked increase in ability to discriminate pitch direction. The categorization test proved to be much more difficult. Only 13 of the 69 children were able to categorize on a significantly consistent basis, and age was not a factor. In both tests, pitch set was the more prominent absolute feature. Although some children as young as 3.5 could discriminate and categorize aural exemplars on the basis of pitch direction, many attended to absolute stimulus features rather than to relational ones.

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