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Discovered by Diana Deutsch in 1973, the octave illusion is an auditory illusion produced by simultaneously playing two sequences of two notes that are spaced an octave apart, high to low, and low to high, in separate stereo channels over headphones. People who are right-handed tend to hear the higher pitch as being in their right ear while the results are mixed for left-handed people.

Diana deutsch octave fig1

Octave Illusion


  • Deutsch, D. (1974). An auditory illusion. Nature 251: 307-309. PMID 4427654.
  • Deutsch, D. (1975). Musical Illusions. Scientific American 233: 92-104.
  • Deutsch, D. and Roll, P. L. (1976). Separate "what" and "where" decision mechanisms in processing a dichotic tonal sequence. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance 2: 23-29. PMID 1262796.
  • Deutsch, D. (1981). "The octave illusion and auditory perceptual integration" Tobias, J.V., and Schubert, E.D., Eds. Hearing Research and Theory, Vol. I, 99-142, New York: Academic Press. ISBN 0-12-312101-9.
  • Deutsch, D. (1983). The octave illusion in relation to handedness and familial handedness background. Neuropsychologia 21: 289-293. PMID 6877583.
  • Deutsch, D. (1987). Illusions for stereo headphones. Audio Magazine: 36-48.
  • Deutsch, D. (2004). The octave illusion revisited again. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance 30: 355-364. PMID 15053694.

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