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Psychology of music: Cognition · Ability · Training · Emotion

Asonia is the impaired ability to distinguish between two musical tones[1]. Nontechnically it is known as tone deafness

A person who is tone deaf lacks relative pitch, the ability to discriminate between musical notes. Being tone deaf is having difficulty or being unable to correctly hear relative differences between notes; however, in common usage, it refers to a person's inability to reproduce them accurately. The latter inability is most often caused by lack of musical training or music education and not actual tone deafness.


Asonia is from the Latin a- (away or away from)+ sonus (a sound)


The ability to hear and reproduce relative pitch, as with other musical abilities, is present in all societies and in most humans. The hearing impairment appears to be genetically influenced, though it can also result from brain damage. Someone who is unable to reproduce pitches because of a lack of musical training would not be considered tone deaf in a medical sense. Tone deafness affects the ability to hear relative pitch changes produced by a musical instrument.

However, tone deaf people seem to beTemplate:Failed verification disabled only when it comes to music, as they can fully interpret the prosody or intonation of human speech. Tone deafness has a strong negative correlation with belonging to societies with tonal languages. This could be evidence that the ability to reproduce and distinguish between notes may be a learned skill, but may conversely suggest that the genetic predisposition towards accurate pitch discrimination may influence the linguistic development of a population towards tonality. A correlation between allele frequencies and linguistic typological features has been recently discovered, supporting the latter hypothesis.[2]

Tone deafness is also associated with other musical-specific impairments, such as inability to keep time with music (the lack of rhythm), or the inability to remember or recognize a song. These disabilities can appear separately but some research shows that they are more likely to appear in tone-deaf people.[3] Experienced musicians, such as W. A. Mathieu, have addressed tone deafness in adults as correctable with training.[4]


In nine of ten tone deaf people, the superior arcuate fasciculus in the right hemisphere could not be detected, suggesting a disconnection between the posterior superior temporal gyrus and the posterior inferior frontal gyrus. Researchers suggested the posterior superior temporal gyrus was the origin of the disorder.[5]

See alsoEdit


  1. Coleman,A F (2006). Oxford Dictionary of Psychology, 2nd ed. Oxford:OUP.
  2. Dediu, Dan, D. Robert Ladd (June 2007). Linguistic tone is related to the population frequency of the adaptive haplogroups of two brain size genes, ASPM and Microcephalin. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 104 (26): 10944–9.
  3. Ayotte, Julie, Isabelle Peretz and Krista Hyde (February 2002). Congenital amusia: a group study of adults afflicted with a music-specific disorder. Brain 125 (2): 238–51.
  4. Mathieu, W. A. Tone-Deaf Choir. URL accessed on 26 February 2009.
  5. Loui P, Alsop D, Schlaug S. (2009). Tone Deafness: A New Disconnection Syndrome? Journal of Neuroscience, 29(33):10215–10220
    1. REDIRECT Template:Doi

External linksEdit

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