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Crossmodal Correspondence Between Auditory Timbre and Visual Shape

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journal contribution
posted on 27.12.2021, 10:15 by Daniel Gurman, Colin R. McCormick, Raymond M. Klein

Crossmodal correspondences are defined as associations between crossmodal stimuli based on seemingly irrelevant stimulus features (i.e., bright shapes being associated with high-pitched sounds). There is a large body of research describing auditory crossmodal correspondences involving pitch and volume, but not so much involving auditory timbre, the character or quality of a sound. Adeli and colleagues (2014, Front. Hum. Neurosci. 8, 352) found evidence of correspondences between timbre and visual shape. The present study aimed to replicate Adeli et al.’s findings, as well as identify novel timbre–shape correspondences. Participants were tested using two computerized tasks: an association task, which involved matching shapes to presented sounds based on best perceived fit, and a semantic task, which involved rating shapes and sounds on a number of scales. The analysis of association matches reveals nonrandom selection, with certain stimulus pairs being selected at a much higher frequency. The harsh/jagged and smooth/soft correspondences observed by Adeli et al. were found to be associated with a high level of consistency. Additionally, high matching frequency of sounds with unstudied timbre characteristics suggests the existence of novel correspondences. Finally, the ability of the semantic task to supplement existing crossmodal correspondence assessments was demonstrated. Convergent analysis of the semantic and association data demonstrates that the two datasets are significantly correlated (−0.36) meaning stimulus pairs associated with a high level of consensus were more likely to hold similar perceived meaning. The results of this study are discussed in both theoretical and applied contexts.