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Though this argument shows that evolutionary theorists have no reason to deny that organisms can be psychological altruists, some authors have suggested that evolutionary theory only permits psychological altruism in very limited domains. The reasoning goes as follows. There are only two ways that a disposition to engage in behavior that helps other organisms but lowers one's own chance of survival and reproduction can evolve.

One of these is the case in which the recipients of help are one's own offspring, or other close kin. Kin selection theory, pioneered by W. Hamilton , a, b makes it clear that, under appropriate circumstances, genes leading to costly helping behavior will tend to spread throughout a population, provided that the recipients of the help are relatives, since this sort of helping behavior increases the number of copies of those genes that will be found in future generations.

The other way in which a disposition to help can evolve requires that episodes of helping behavior are part of a longer term reciprocal strategy in which the organism that is the beneficiary of helping behavior is disposed to help its benefactor on some subsequent occasion. They showed that tit-for-tat would be favored by natural selection over many other strategies, including a purely selfish strategy of never offering help but always accepting it.

Since psychological altruism will lead to helping behavior, it is argued, psychological altruism can evolve only when a disposition to helping behavior can. So it is biologically possible for organisms to have ultimate desires to help their kin, and to help non-kin with whom they engage in ongoing reciprocal altruism.

But apart from these special cases, psychological altruism can't evolve. Versions of this influential line of thought can be found in many places Nesse ; Wright Chs. However, we think there is good reason to be very skeptical about the crucial premise, which maintains that dispositions to helping behavior can only evolve via kin selection or reciprocal altruism. It has long been recognized that various sorts of group selection, in which one group of individuals leaves more descendants than another group, can lead to the evolution of helping behavior. Until recently though, the reigning orthodoxy in evolutionary biology has been that the conditions under which group selection can act are so unlikely to occur in natural breeding populations that it is unlikely to have played a substantial role in human evolution.

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This view has been boldly challenged by Sober and Wilson , and while their views are very controversial, we think that the extent to which group selection played a role in human evolution is very much an open question. Much less controversially, Boyd and Richerson have developed models demonstrating that helping behavior and, indeed, just about any sort of behavior can evolve if informal punishment is meted out to individuals who do not help in circumstances when they are expected to.

More recently, Sripada forthcoming has argued that ultimate desires for the well-being of others could evolve via a rather different route. There are many situations in which people are better off if they act in a coordinated way, but where no specific way of acting is best. To deal with this problem, Sripada argues, natural selection may well have led to the evolution of a psychological mechanism that generates ultimate desires to adhere to locally prevailing customs or practices. And since some of those locally prevailing customs may require helping others, some of the ultimate desires produced by that psychological mechanism might well be psychologically altruistic.

If Boyd and Richerson and Sripada are right, and we believe they are, then evolutionary theory gives us no reason to suppose that psychological altruism must be restricted to kin and individuals involved in reciprocal exchanges. So, contrary to the presumption that evolutionary biology has resolved the debate between egoists and altruists in favor of egoism, it appears that evolutionary theory has nothing to offer that will enable us to make progress in that debate.

The psychological literature relevant to the egoism vs. Batson, along with many other researchers, begins by borrowing an idea that has deep roots in philosophical discussions of altruism. Though the details and the terminology differ significantly from author to author, the core idea is that altruism is often the product of an emotional response to the distress of another person. If the philosophical tradition that suggests the empathy-altruism hypothesis is on the right track, and Batson believes it is, we would predict that when people feel empathy they will desire to help those who evoke the emotion, and thus they will be more inclined to engage in helping behavior than people who do not feel empathy.

This does not mean that people will always engage in helping behavior when they feel empathy, since people typically have various and conflicting desires, and not all conflicts are resolved in favor of empathy's urgings. Nor does it mean that when people feel little or no empathy they will not engage in helping behavior, since the desire to help can also be produced by a variety of processes in which empathy plays no role.

But we should expect that typically people feeling empathy will be more likely to help than people who aren't feeling empathy, and the stronger the empathy the more likely it is that they will engage in helping behavior. In order to put this claim to empirical test, it is important to have ways of inducing empathy in the laboratory, and there is a substantial body of literature suggesting how this can be done. Relatedly, Krebs demonstrated that subjects who observe someone similar to themselves undergo painful experiences show more physiological arousal, report identifying with the target more strongly, and report feeling worse while waiting for the painful stimulus to begin than do subjects who observe the same painful experiences administered to someone who is not similar to themselves.

Krebs also showed that subjects are more willing to help at some personal cost when the sufferer is similar to themselves. Batson 82—87 interprets these findings as indicating that people are more inclined to feel empathy for those they believe to be similar to themselves, and thus that empathy can often be evoked by providing a person with evidence that she and a target person are similar. To make the case that empathy leads to helping behavior, Batson relies in part on work by others, including the Krebs study just cited and a study by Dovidio et al.

When given an opportunity to help the young woman, subjects in whom empathy had been evoked were more likely to help than subjects in a low empathy condition, and the increase in helping was specific to the problem that had evoked the empathy. Many of Batson's own experiments, some of which we'll describe below, also support the contention that both spontaneously evoked empathy and empathy engendering experimental manipulations increase the likelihood of helping behavior.

Another important source of support for the link between empathy and helping behavior is a meta-analysis of a large body of experimental literature by Eisenberg and Miller which found positive correlations between empathy and prosocial behavior in studies using a variety of techniques to assess empathy. It might be thought that establishing a causal link between empathy and helping behavior would be bad news for egoism. But, as Batson makes clear, the fact that empathy leads to helping behavior does not resolve the dispute between egoism and altruism, since it does not address the nature of the motivation for the helping behavior that empathy evokes.

One possibility is that empathy does indeed cause a genuinely altruistic desire to help—an ultimate desire for the well being of the sufferer. But there are also a variety of egoistic routes by which empathy might lead to helping behavior. Perhaps the most obvious of these is that empathy might simply be or cause an unpleasant experience, and that people are motivated to help because they believe this is the best way to stop the unpleasant experience that is caused by someone else's distress.

If people believe that others will reward or sanction them for helping or failing to help in certain circumstances, and if the feeling of empathy marks those cases in which social sanctions or rewards are most likely, then we would expect people to be more helpful when they feel empathy, even if their ultimate motivation is purely egoistic. A variation on this theme focuses on rewards or punishments that are self-administered. If people believe that helping may make them feel good, or that failing to help may make them feel bad, and that these feelings will be most likely to occur in cases where they feel empathy, then once again we would expect people who empathize to be more helpful, though their motives may be not at all altruistic.

For more than twenty-five years, Batson and his collaborators have systematically explored these options. Their strategy is to design experiments in which the altruistic explanation of the link between empathy and helping can be compared to one or another specific egoistic explanation. Reviewing all of these experiments would require far more space than we have.

One of the more popular egoist alternatives to the empathy-altruism hypothesis is the idea that people engage in helping behavior because they fear that other people will punish them if they do not. If I don't help, the agent is supposed to worry, people will be angry or they will think badly of me, and this may have negative effects on how they treat me in the future. As it stands, this egoist hypothesis can't explain the fact that empathy increases the likelihood of helping, but a more sophisticated version is easy to construct by adding the assumption that people think social sanctions for not helping are more likely when the target engenders empathy.

To test this hypothesis—which Batson calls the socially administered empathy-specific punishment hypothesis —against the empathy-altruism hypothesis, Batson and his associates Fultz et al. Others can form a negative evaluation of your decision not to help only if they know the choice you are facing and the decision you have made; if your decision is secret, you need have no fear of social sanctions.

Thus the socially administered empathy-specific punishment hypothesis predicts that subjects who exhibit high empathy on a given occasion will be more likely to help when they believe others will know if they fail to do so. On the empathy-altruism hypothesis, by contrast, high empathy subjects are motivated by an ultimate desire to help, and thus their helping levels should be high whether or not others would know if they decided not to help. In the low empathy condition, both hypotheses predict that levels of helping will be low. These predictions are summarized in Tables 1 and 2.

After completing a form on which subjects indicated their impressions of Janet and their emotional responses to her note, they were presented with an unexpected opportunity to befriend Janet by volunteering to take part in a study of long-term relationships involving an initial meeting with Janet and periodic phone interviews about the development of their friendship. Participants who were willing to help were asked how much time they were willing to spend with Janet during the next month.

To manipulate empathy, Batson and his associates used the Stotland technique. Try to focus on the techniques used to get the communicator's message across. Four steps were taken to manipulate the perceived potential for negative social evaluation. In the low-potential condition :. The results, given in Table 3, indicate that the socially administered empathy-specific punishment hypothesis did not fare well. On the basis of this experiment and a similar experiment in which empathy for Janet was not manipulated but was measured by self-report, Batson concludes that the socially administered empathy-specific punishment hypothesis is not consistent with the experimental facts.

Though two experiments hardly make a conclusive case, we are inclined to agree with Batson that these studies make the socially administered empathy-specific punishment hypothesis look significantly less plausible than the empathy-altruism hypothesis. So one popular egoist hypothesis has been dealt a serious blow: high empathy subjects were more likely to help whether or not they could expect their behavior to be socially scrutinized. At least in some circumstances, empathy appears to facilitate helping independently of the threat of social sanction.

Another popular egoistic strategy for explaining the link between empathy and helping behavior is the aversive-arousal reduction hypothesis , which maintains that the empathy evoked by witnessing someone in need is an unpleasant or aversive experience, and that helping is motivated by the desire to diminish that aversive experience. If this is right, Batson maintains, people in a high empathy condition will sometimes have two quite different ways of reducing the aversive experience—they can help the person in need or they can simply leave.

Which strategy a person adopts will depend, in part, on how difficult or costly it is to depart the scene. If escape is easy, people will be more likely to take that option, while if leaving is more difficult people will be more likely to help, since that is a less costly way of ending the aversive experience.

If, on the other hand, the empathy-altruism hypothesis is correct and empathy leads to genuinely altruistic motivation, we would expect people in a high empathy condition to help whether escape is easy or hard, since only helping will satisfy an altruistic desire.

Altruism and egoism both allow that even in the absence of empathy, an emotionally disturbing need situation will produce feelings of personal distress, thus they would both predict that people in a low empathy condition will be more inclined to help when escape is difficult, and less inclined when escape is easy.

Batson summarizes these predictions in Tables 4 and 5 Batson To test these predictions, Batson and his associates conducted a total of six experiments. In one of these experiment 1 in Batson et al. Observer subjects were told that their task would be to form and report an impression of how Elaine performs under aversive conditions. On the tape, Elaine is clearly finding the shocks very uncomfortable, and after her second trail at doing the task, she explains to Martha, the assistant administering the shocks, that she is unusually sensitive to mild electric shocks because of a childhood trauma.

Martha then suggests that perhaps the observer subject might be willing to help Elaine by taking her place, and the experimenter asks whether the subject is willing to do that. To manipulate ease of escape, some subjects were told that if they decide not to take Elaine's place, they will be required to watch eight additional trials, while other subjects were told that if they decide not to take Elaine's place they are free to go. To manipulate the level of empathy that subjects feel for Elaine, subjects were given a copy of a personal values and interests questionnaire, allegedly filled out by Elaine, in order to help them form an impression of her performance.

In the high empathy condition, Elaine's values and interests were very similar to the subject's which had been determined in a screening session several weeks before , while in the low empathy condition, they were very different. The results, given in Table 6, clearly exhibit the pattern predicted by the empathy-altruism hypothesis, not the pattern predicted by the aversive-arousal reduction hypothesis. In additional experiments, Batson and his associates used four different techniques to create the low- and high-empathy conditions, two techniques for manipulating ease of escape, and two different need situations Batson et al.

The results in all of these experiments exhibited the same pattern. As expected, the pattern of results in this experiment fit the pattern in Table 4. These are impressive findings. Over and over again, in well designed and carefully conducted experiments, Batson and his associates have produced results which are clearly compatible with the predictions of the empathy-altruism hypothesis, as set out in Table 5, and clearly incompatible with what Batson maintains are the predictions of the aversive-arousal reduction hypothesis, as set out in Table 4.

In light of these results, it is very tempting to suppose that this series of experiments represents a major advance in the egoism vs. No thoughtful observer would conclude that these experiments show that altruism is true, since, as Batson , himself emphasizes, there are many other egoistic alternatives to the empathy-altruism hypothesis. It would be gratifying to conclude that yet another venerable egoistic alternative to altruism is no longer a serious option.

Unfortunately, we are not convinced, since we think defenders of the aversive-arousal reduction hypothesis can accommodate all of Batson's findings. Call this the o ut of sight, out of mind assumption. Perhaps high empathy subjects believe that if they escape they will continue to be troubled by the thought or memory of the distressed target. Indeed, in cases where empathy is strong and is evoked by attachment, this is just what common sense would lead us to expect. Do you really believe that if your mother was in grave distress and you left without helping her you would not continue to be troubled by the knowledge that she was still in distress?

We're guessing that you don't. But if people do not make the out of sight, out of mind assumption when they have high empathy for the target, then the aversive-arousal reduction hypothesis predicts that high empathy subjects will be inclined to help in both easy and difficult escape conditions, since helping is the only effective strategy for reducing the aversive arousal. And when this is done, neither the findings reported in Table 6 nor the results of any of Batson's other experiments give us any reason to prefer the empathy-altruism hypothesis over the aversive-arousal reduction hypothesis, since both hypotheses make the same predictions.

It is, of course, an empirical question whether high empathy subjects make the out of sight, out of mind assumption, either consciously or unconsciously, and Batson might protect his argument from our critique by showing that high empathy subjects do make the assumption in experimental situations like those he has used.

But until that is done, we think that the jury is still out on the aversive-arousal reduction hypothesis. In some summaries of his work, Batson maintains that his research program has resolved the age-old debate between egoists and altruists:. We cannot endorse this assessment. In our view, Batson and his collaborators have made important strides in moving the debate forward.

They have formulated a sophisticated altruist hypothesis that can be tested against competing egoist hypotheses, and they have designed experiments which strongly suggest that some of those egoist hypothesis are false. But their work also illustrates how difficult it is to gather persuasive evidence against other plausible renderings of egoism. While some versions of egoism are on the ropes, the debate between egoism and altruism is still very much alive. Given that moral disagreement—about abortion, say, or capital punishment—so often seems intractable, is there any reason to think that moral problems admit objective resolutions?

Mackie supposed that his argument undermines moral realism , the view that, as Smith 9, cf. While moral realists have often taken pretty optimistic positions on the extent of actual moral agreement e. Anti-realists like Mackie have a ready explanation for this phenomenon: Moral judgment is not objective in Smith's sense, and moral argument cannot be expected to accomplish what Smith and other realists think it can. A familiar realist strategy is to insist that the preponderance of actual moral disagreement is due to limitations of disputants or their circumstances, and insist that very substantial, if not unanimous [ 34 ] moral agreement would emerge in ideal conditions, when, for example, disputants are fully rational and fully informed of the relevant non-moral facts.

It is immediately evident that the relative merits of these competing explanations cannot be fairly determined without close discussion of the factors implicated in actual moral disagreements. Richard Brandt, who was a pioneer in the effort to integrate ethical theory and the social sciences, looked primarily to anthropology to help determine whether moral attitudes can be expected to converge under idealized circumstances. It is of course well known that anthropology includes a substantial body of work, such as the classic studies of Westermarck and Sumner , detailing the radically divergent moral outlooks found in cultures around the world.

But as Brandt —4 recognized, typical ethnographies do not support confident inferences about the convergence of attitudes under ideal conditions, in large measure because they often give limited guidance regarding how much of the moral disagreement can be traced to disagreement about factual matters that are not moral in nature, such as those having to do with religious or cosmological views.

With this sort of difficulty in mind, Brandt undertook his own anthropological study of Hopi peoples in the American southwest, and found issues for which there appeared to be serious moral disagreement between typical Hopi and white American attitudes that could not plausibly be attributed to differences in belief about nonmoral facts.

Brandt made a concerted effort to determine whether this difference in moral outlook could be traced to disagreement about nonmoral facts, but he could find no plausible explanation of this kind; his Hopi informants didn't believe that animals lack the capacity to feel pain, for example, nor did they have cosmological beliefs that would explain away the apparent cruelty of the practice, such as beliefs to the effect that animals are rewarded for martyrdom in the afterlife. Moody-Adams argues that little of philosophical import can be concluded from Brandt's—and indeed from much—ethnographic work.

Advocates of ethnographic projects will likely respond—not unreasonably, we think—that judicious observation and interview, such as that to which Brandt aspired, can motivate confident assessments of evaluative diversity. Suppose, however, that Moody-Adams is right, and the methodological difficulties are insurmountable. Now, there's an equitable distribution of the difficulty: If observation and interview are really as problematic as Moody-Adams suggests, neither the realists' nor the anti-realists' take on disagreement can be supported by appeal to empirical evidence.

We do not think that such a stalemate obtains, because we think the implicated methodological pessimism excessive. Serious empirical work can, we think, tell us a lot about cultures—and the differences between them. The appropriate way of proceeding is with close attention to particular studies, and what they show and fail to show.

As Brandt —2 acknowledged, the anthropological literature of his day did not always provide as much information on the exact contours and origins of moral attitudes and beliefs as philosophers wondering about the prospects for convergence might like. Here we will focus on some cultural differences found close to our home, differences discovered by Nisbett and his colleagues while investigating regional patterns of violence in the American North and South. We argue that these findings support Brandt's pessimistic conclusions regarding the likelihood of convergence in moral judgment.

Although these groups differ in many respects, they manifest important commonalties:. According to Nisbett and Cohen 5—9 , an important factor in the genesis of southern honor culture was the presence of a herding economy.


Honor cultures are particularly likely to develop where resources are liable to theft, and where the state's coercive apparatus cannot be relied upon to prevent or punish thievery. In areas where farming rather than herding dominates, cooperation among neighbors is more important, stronger government infrastructures are more common, and resources—like decidedly unportable farmland—are harder to steal. In such agrarian social economies, cultures of honor tend not to develop. The American South was originally settled primarily by peoples from remote areas of Britain.

Since their homelands were generally unsuitable for farming, these peoples have historically been herders; when they emigrated from Britain to the American South, they initially sought out remote regions suitable for herding, and in such regions, the culture of honor flourished. In the contemporary South, police and other government services are widely available and herding has all but disappeared as a way of life, but certain sorts of violence continue to be more common than they are in the North.

Nisbett and Cohen maintain that patterns of violence in the South, as well as attitudes toward violence, insults, and affronts to honor, are best explained by the hypothesis that a culture of honor persists among contemporary white non-Hispanic southerners. In support of this hypothesis, they offer a compelling array of evidence, including:. Two experimental studies—one in the field, the other in the laboratory—are especially striking. In the field study Nisbett and Cohen 73—5 , letters of inquiry were sent to hundreds of employers around the United States.

The letters purported to be from a hardworking year-old Michigan man who had a single blemish on his otherwise solid record. He laughed at me to my face and asked me to step outside if I was man enough. In the other version of the letter, the applicant revealed that he had been convicted of motor vehicle theft, perpetrated at a time when he needed money for his family. Nisbett and his colleagues assessed letters of response, and found that southern employers were significantly more likely to be cooperative and sympathetic in response to the manslaughter letter than were northern employers, while no regional differences were found in responses to the theft letter.

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One southern employer responded to the manslaughter letter as follows:. In the laboratory study Nisbett and Cohen 45—8 subjects—white males from both northern and southern states attending the University of Michigan—were told that saliva samples would be collected to measure blood sugar as they performed various tasks.

After an initial sample was collected, the unsuspecting subject walked down a narrow corridor where an experimental confederate was pretending to work on some filing. As Figure 1 indicates, southern subjects showed dramatic increases in cortisol and testosterone levels, while northerners exhibited much smaller changes. The two studies just described suggest that southerners respond more strongly to insult than northerners, and take a more sympathetic view of others who do so, manifesting just the sort of attitudes that are supposed to typify honor cultures.

We think that the data assembled by Nisbett and his colleagues make a persuasive case that a culture of honor persists in the American South. Apparently, this culture affects people's judgments, attitudes, emotion, behavior, and even their physiological responses. Additionally, there is evidence that child rearing practices play a significant role in passing the culture of honor on from one generation to the next, and also that relatively permissive laws regarding gun ownership, self-defense, and corporal punishment in the schools both reflect and reinforce southern honor culture Nisbett and Cohen 60—63, 67—9.

In short, it seems to us that the culture of honor is deeply entrenched in contemporary southern culture, despite the fact that many of the material and economic conditions giving rise to it no longer widely obtain. So if there is little ground for expecting convergence in the case at hand, there is probably little ground in a good many others. As we said at the outset, realists defending conjectures about convergence may attempt to explain away evaluative diversity by arguing that the diversity is to be attributed to shortcomings of discussants or their circumstances.

If this strategy can be made good, moral realism may survive an empirically informed argument from disagreement: so much the worse for the instance of moral reflection and discussion in question, not so much the worse for the objectivity of morality. While we cannot here canvass all the varieties of this suggestion, we will briefly remark on some of the more common forms. One strategy favored by moral realists concerned to explain away moral disagreement is to say that such disagreement stems from the distorting effects of individual interest see Sturgeon — ; perhaps persistent disagreement doesn't so much betray deep features of moral argument and judgment as it does the doggedness with which individuals pursue their perceived advantage.

For instance, seemingly moral disputes over the distribution of wealth may be due to perceptions—perhaps mostly inchoate—of individual and class interests rather than to principled disagreement about justice; persisting moral disagreement in such circumstances fails the impartiality condition, and is therefore untroubling to the moral realist. One can advocate a violent honor code without going in for special pleading.

Full and vivid awareness of relevant nonmoral facts. Moral realists have argued that moral disagreements very often derive from disagreement about nonmoral issues. According to Boyd ; cf. We find it hard to imagine what agreement on nonmoral facts could do the trick, for we can readily imagine that northerners and southerners might be in full agreement on the relevant nonmoral facts in the cases described. We think it much more plausible to suppose that the disagreement resides in differing and deeply entrenched evaluative attitudes regarding appropriate responses to cuckolding, challenge, and insult.

But this is of little help for the expedient under consideration, since the disagreement-in-nonmoral-fact response apparently requires that one can disentangle factual and moral disagreement. It is of course possible that full and vivid awareness of the nonmoral facts might motivate the sort of change in southern attitudes envisaged by the at least the northern moral realist.

Were southerners to become vividly aware that their culture of honor was implicated in violence, they might be moved to change their moral outlook. We take this way of putting the example to be the most natural one, but nothing philosophical turns on it. If you like, substitute the possibility of northerners endorsing honor values after exposure to the facts. The burden of argument, we think, lies with the realist who asserts— culture and history notwithstanding —that southerners would change their mind if vividly aware of the pertinent facts. Freedom from Abnormality. Realists may contend that much moral disagreement may result from failures of rationality on the part of discussants Brink — Obviously, disagreement stemming from cognitive impairments is no embarrassment for moral realism; at the limit, that a disagreement persists when some or all disputing parties are quite insane shows nothing deep about morality.

But it doesn't seem plausible that southerners' more lenient attitudes towards certain forms of violence are readily attributed to widespread cognitive disability. Of course, this is an empirical issue, but we don't know of any evidence suggesting that southerners suffer some cognitive impairment that prevents them from understanding demographic and attitudinal factors in the genesis of violence, or any other matter of fact. What is needed to press home a charge of irrationality is evidence of cognitive impairment independent of the attitudinal differences, and further evidence that this impairment is implicated in adherence to the disputed values.

In this instance, as in many others, we have difficulty seeing how charges of abnormality or irrationality can be made without one side begging the question against the other. Admittedly, our conclusions must be tentative. Rather, we hope to have given an idea of the empirical work philosophers must encounter, if they are to make defensible conjectures regarding moral disagreement.

Progress in ethical theorizing often requires progress on difficult psychological questions about how human beings can be expected to function in moral contexts. It is no surprise, then, that moral psychology is a central area of inquiry in philosophical ethics. It should also come as no surprise that empirical research, such as that conducted in psychology departments, may substantially abet such inquiry.

Nor then, should it surprise that research in moral psychology has become methodologically pluralistic , exploiting the resources of, and endeavoring to contribute to, various disciplines. Here, we have illustrated how such interdisciplinary inquiry may proceed with regard to central problems in philosophical ethics. We depart with the hope that we have begun to chart the lines of further progress. Spring Edition Cite this entry. Search this Archive.

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Absolute pitch is correlated with high performance on relative pitch tasks. Musical illusons, absolute pitch, and other enigmas of sound perception. Vern O. The Speech-to-Song Illusion. Could a congenital disorder of musical perception ever be explained by a single gene? Relating neuronal organization to a complex behavioural phenotype. Neuromusic News , , 12, A new pitch circularity illusion. Paper presented at the meeting of the. Two issues at the interface between speech and music. Dooley, K.

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