August 2014
Volume 14, Issue 10
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   August 2014
Visual Texture, Music, and Emotion
Author Affiliations
  • Thomas Langlois
    Department of Psychology, University of California, Berkeley
  • Joshua Peterson
    Department of Psychology, University of California, Berkeley
  • Stephen Palmer
    Department of Psychology, University of California, Berkeley
Journal of Vision August 2014, Vol.14, 437. doi:
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      Thomas Langlois, Joshua Peterson, Stephen Palmer; Visual Texture, Music, and Emotion. Journal of Vision 2014;14(10):437. doi:

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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Previous research indicates that cross-modal music-to-color associations are systematic in non-synesthetes and are mediated by emotion (e.g., Palmer et al., 2013; Langlois, VSS-2013; Whiteford et al., VSS-2013). The present research asks whether similarly systematic associations are evident from music to line-based geometric visual textures in non-synesthetes, and whether they are mediated by emotional and/or non-emotional effects. We created 28 black-and-white line-based textures that differed on many geometric dimensions (e.g., the elements were lines/segments/circles/ovals/ waves/jags and their positional distributions were in regular-grids/random-grids/regular- meshes/random-meshes). While listening to 34 widely different musical selections that varied from heavy-metal to Hindustani-sitar, 20 non-synesthetic participants picked the 3 most-consistent (and later the 3 least consistent) textures for each musical selection from a 7x4 array of black-and-white textures. Afterward, they rated each musical selection and each visual texture along 5 emotion dimensions (Happy/Sad, Angry/Not-Angry, Agitated/Calm, Weak/Strong, Harmonious/Disharmonious), and 8 geometric dimensions (e.g., Simple/Complex, Sharp/Smooth, Granular/Fibrous). We then computed an index of music-texture associations (MTAs) for each musical selection and each rated dimension (e.g., Calm/Agitated) as a weighted average of the ratings of the 3 textures chosen as best minus the 3 chosen as worst for that selection. The results suggest that cross-modal music-to-texture associations are mediated in part by emotion, because the emotional ratings of the musical selections were strongly correlated with the emotional MTAs of the textures that were chosen as going best with the same selections (.92 for Angry/Not-angry, .94 for Calm/Agitated, .82 for Active/ Passive, .86 for Harmonious/Disharmonious). Unlike music-to-color associations, Happy/Sad was not relevant in music-to-texture associations (r=.07), primarily because the textures did not vary reliably in happiness/sadness. Music-to-texture associations were also mediated by associated non-emotional features (e.g., .91 for Simple/Complex and .87 for Sharp/Smooth). Cross-modal mappings from music to visual textures thus result from shared associations with both emotional and non-emotional content.

Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2014


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