Academic journal article Psychomusicology

Listening in the Dark: Congenital and Early Blindness and Cross-Domain Mappings in Music

Academic journal article Psychomusicology

Listening in the Dark: Congenital and Early Blindness and Cross-Domain Mappings in Music

Article excerpt

We examine how individuals who are congenitally or early blind (CEB), as compared with sighted individuals, associate musical parameters with nonauditory domains. Exp1 (modeled after Eitan & Granot, 2006) investigated how participants associate pitch direction, loudness change and tempo change with motion features. In Exp2 (modeled after Eitan & Timmers, 2010), participants rated appropriateness of 10 antonyms as metaphors for two musical segments contrasting in pitch height. Most CEB's mappings of auditory parameters did not differ from those of the sighted. Notably, this included even the mapping of pitch onto visually based dimensions (e.g., lightness). This notwithstanding, CEB's mappings of musical parameters onto motion (Exp1) were distinct in several ways. First, distance change (particularly approach) was associated by CEB with tempo and pitch change, in addition to loudness. Second, and most surprisingly, the prevalent mapping of pitch direction and vertical motion was lacking among CEB (Exp1). The latter finding suggests that the elevation mapping for auditory pitch may be inherently associated with sight, perhaps stemming from early learning of spectral pinna-based elevation cues using audiovisual information.

Keywords: cross-domain mappings, metaphor, congenital blindness, motion imagery, pitch

Supplemental materials:

Cross-Domain Mappings of Sound

We can hardly refer to musical sound-indeed, to any sound- without using terms derived from nonauditory domains. In a va- riety of languages, even the most basic terms for auditory dimen- sions use cross-domain mappings. We speak of pitch in terms of spatial height ("high" and "low," or "rising" and "falling" mel- ody), of sound quality in visual (bright/dark) or tactile (rough/ smooth) terms, and of musical rhythm in terms of motion (fast/ slow, andante) weight (light-footed/heavy) or tactile qualities (smooth, jagged).

While cross-domain mappings for sound and music pervade language, their effect surpasses language use per se. A host of empirical work indicates that mappings of auditory dimensions into vision, motion, and touch are not merely habitual figures of speech but rather strongly (and often subconsciously) affect cog- nition, perception, and action (for surveys of relevant empirical literature see, e.g., Eitan, in press; Marks, 1996, 2000, 2004; Spence, 2011). Particularly manifest are mappings of auditory and spatiotemporal dimensions; indeed, recent findings suggest that musical and spatiotemporal abilities are inherently associated (Douglas & Bilkey, 2007). The association of pitch and spatial height, for instance, has been shown to influence the actual per- ception of pitch location ("higher" pitches are indeed perceived as higher in space; Bregman & Steiger, 1980; Pratt, 1930; Roffler & Butler, 1968; Timble, 1934) and significantly affects performance (response time and error rates) in speeded discrimination experi- ments involving audio-visual stimuli (Ben-Artzi & Marks, 1995; Bernstein & Edelstein,1971; Melara & O'Brien, 1987). Moreover, this association has been demonstrated (using the head-turn para- digm) for preverbal infants (Wagner, Winner, Cicchetti, & Gard- ner, 1981; Walker, Brenner, Spring, Masttock, Slater, & Johnson, 2010). Findings suggesting early and deeply rooted cross-modal mappings of sound were reported for other dimensions as well, such as loudness and brightness (Lewkowicz & Turkewitz, 1980), pitch and sharpness (Walker et al., 2010), and pitch and visual lightness-an association which also was reported for nonhuman primates (Ludwig, Adachi, & Matsuzawa, 2011). In adults, robust cross-domain mappings for sound, independent of acquired lan- guage usage, have been demonstrated, among others, by Eitan and Timmers (2010), who revealed that listeners are in near-consensus on the application of a variety of metaphors to musical pitch, though most of these metaphors were not a part of their explicit lexicon. …

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