If you’re a musician, this sounds too good to be true: UChicago psychologists have been able to train some adults to develop the prized musical ability of absolute pitch, and the training’s effects last for months.
Absolute pitch, commonly known as “perfect pitch,” is the ability to identify a note by hearing it. The ability is considered remarkably rare, estimated to be less than one in 10,000 individuals. It has always been a very desired ability among musicians, especially since several famous composers, including Mozart, reportedly had it. The assumption has been that this special talent has a critical period to be established in childhood based on early musical training and that it was not possible for adults to acquire this skill.
In this 2015 study published by the journal Cognition, Howard Nusbaum, professor of psychology, and colleagues tested how much an individual’s general auditory working memory capacity can predict the success of acquiring absolute pitch. Other UChicago authors on the paper are psychology doctoral student Stephen C. Van Hedger, post-doctoral scholar Shannon L.M. Heald and College undergraduate Rachelle Koch.