The crossmodal correspondence between auditory pitch and visuospatial elevation (in which high- and low-pitched tones are associated with high and low spatial elevation respectively) has been proposed as the basis for Western musical notation. One implication of this is that music perception engages visuospatial processes and may not be exclusively auditory. Here, we investigated how music perception is influenced by concurrent visual stimuli. Participants listened to unfamiliar five-note musical phrases with four kinds of pitch contour (rising, falling, rising-falling, or falling-rising), accompanied by incidental visual contours that were either congruent (e.g., auditory rising/visual rising) or incongruent (e.g., auditory rising/visual falling) and judged whether the final note of the musical phrase was higher or lower in pitch than the first. Response times for the auditory judgment were significantly slower for incongruent compared to congruent trials, i.e., there was a congruency effect, even though the visual contours were incidental to the auditory task. These results suggest that music perception, although generally regarded as an auditory experience, may actually be multisensory in nature.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
- Sensory Systems
- Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition
- Cognitive Neuroscience