Metaphor of high and low in pitch revisited: Visual motion illusion induced by auditory pitch
Single Paper Presentation
Dept of Psychology, Stanford Univ
Psychonomics Division, Helmholtz Research Institute, Utrecht University
Division of Biology, Computation and Neural Systems, California Institute of Technology
Abstract ID Number: 143
Last modified: May 20, 2003
Why are pitches described as being ‘high’ or ‘low’? Are these terms merely metaphors? Studies demonstrate interactions between pitch, space and other variables within and across modality. While several theories have been proposed, the nature of the interactions including the neural mechanisms involved remains unclear. Here we demonstrate a novel cross-modal illusion, one that does not appear to be predicted by current theory. A pure tone with changing pitch (0.3 – 2.0 kHz) was presented while observers viewed counter-phase gratings. The direction of motion was perceived in accord with the pitch change; i.e., when the tone changed from high to low pitch, downward motion was perceived, and vice versa. Control data indicate that this is a perceptual effect unexplained by eye movements, response bias, or linguistic semantic top-down influences. Furthermore, it is unlikely that the phenomenon is a low-level sensory effect or could be explained by the intrinsic spatial attributes of sound. These results may provide insight into the neural mechanisms underlying cross-modal interactions. In addition, they may have implications for understanding the possible perceptual origin of the metaphoric use of ‘high’ and ‘low’ in pitch.