Academic journal article Psychomusicology

Representation of Pitch in Horizontal Space and Its Dependence on Musical and Instrumental Experience

Academic journal article Psychomusicology

Representation of Pitch in Horizontal Space and Its Dependence on Musical and Instrumental Experience

Article excerpt

Both musicians and nonmusicians commonly employ visuospatial dimensions to represent or refer to auditory dimensions (Eitan & Granot, 2006). This is the case for example when describing musical aspects such as pitch as high or low, far or nearby (Eitan & Timmers, 2010), or when dancing or gesturing to music, and visualizing different aspects through movements of different size, speed, and direction (Küssner, Tidhar, Prior, & Leech-Wilkinson, 2014; Caramiaux, Bevilacqua, & Schnell, 2010; Godøy, Haga, & Jensenius, 2006). Frequently observed mappings of pitch height include mappings onto vertical height, size, weight, visual sharpness, and brightness (Eitan & Timmers, 2010; Walker, Walker, & Francis, 2012; Spence, 2011). Mappings of pitch onto horizontal location have also been shown (Weis, Estner, & Lachmann, 2015; Weis, Estner, Van Leeuwen, & Lachmann, 2016), but are more ambiguous in direction (consensus about direction is relatively low, see Eitan & Timmers, 2010), and do not always show in speeded classification tasks. For example, depending on whether the task explicitly includes pitch or not, and includes a reference tone or not, nonmusicians may not show an interaction between pitch and horizontal location, while musicians do (Lidji, Kolinsky, Lochy, & Morais, 2007; Rusconi, Kwan, Giordano, Umilta, & Butterworth, 2006; Lega Cattaneo, Merabet, Vecchi, & Cucchi, 2014). However, with sufficient focus of attention on the tones, the effect may be observed also in nonmusicians (Weis et al., 2015, 2016). It may be that associations between pitch and horizontal location differ in origin and/or development from for example, the mapping between pitch and vertical location, and are less reinforced in everyday encounters with pitched sounds.

This article investigates the dependence of the association between pitch and horizontal location on musical training, comparing responses from participants with three levels of musical expertise (Experiment 1), and two types of instrumental experience (Experiments 2 and 3). Moreover, it will test the association between pitch and location by examining whether the unattended (taskirrelevant) dimension influences the perception of the attended (task-relevant) dimension. Previous studies have focused on the demonstration of an interaction between dimensions using a speeded binary response paradigm, as reviewed below. We will examine whether the location influences pitch perception and the pitch influences location perception in a continuous fashion (relatively high or low interferes in a continuous manner with rela- tively right and left, using a similar paradigm to Casasanto & Boroditsky, 2008 and Dolscheid, Shayan, Majid, & Casasanto, 2013). As a background to the study, we will shortly review main findings related to the association between pitch and vertical location, comparing these with findings on the association between pitch and horizontal location. This will bring us to the main hypothesis of the study that the mapping with horizontal location may be latently present in (right-handed) listeners, but is reinforced through music performance experience.

The mapping between pitch height and vertical location is a strong and robust association present in pitch-space synesthetes (Linkovski, Akiva-Kabiri, Gertner, & Henik, 2012) as well as the general population (Spence, 2011; Rusconi et al., 2006; Ben-Artzi & Marks, 1995). Participants make this association irrespective of reinforcement of the association through language, although language does seem to shape cross-modal correspondences. For example, in Persian, high and low pitch are commonly denoted as "thin" and "thick," nevertheless Persian participants did show the association between high and low vertical space and high and low pitch (Dolscheid et al., 2013). This was in contrast to Dutch participants, who only showed an association between "thin" and "thick" and high and low pitch after reinforcement of the association by reading sentences linking the two concepts (Dolscheid et al. …

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