December 2022
Volume 22, Issue 14
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   December 2022
An ecological model of correspondences between colour and sound
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Christoph Witzel
    University of Southampton
  • Gesine Blank
  • Nedim Goktepe
  • Footnotes
    Acknowledgements  Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft Sonderforschungsbereich (SFB) TRR 135 project C2.
Journal of Vision December 2022, Vol.22, 3972. doi:
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      Christoph Witzel, Gesine Blank, Nedim Goktepe; An ecological model of correspondences between colour and sound. Journal of Vision 2022;22(14):3972.

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

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Cross-modal correspondences might give insight into how different kinds of perceptual information, such as colour and sound, are combined to make sense of the world. Inspired by previous work on colour preferences (Palmer & Schloss, PNAS, 2010), we investigated whether colour-sound correspondences can be predicted by shared associations with objects and phenomena in the environment. With different participant samples, we measured (1) correspondences between colours and pitch, (2) object associations with colours, and (3) object associations with pitch. We assembled a set of 24 colours to include typical and nontypical colours of basic colour terms. To determine colour-pitch associations, observers adjusted the pitch of pure tones to best match each colour. Loudness was controlled based on data from a preliminary measurement of loudness matches across pitch. To establish colour-object associations, one sample of participants produced associations with each of the 24 colours. Another sample of participants then rated how well those associations match the colours. To determine object-pitch associations, object concepts were presented, and participants adjusted the pitch that best corresponds with each object or phenomenon. We predicted colour-pitch associations through a quantitative model that combined object-colour and object-pitch associations. For this model, we calculated the weighted average of the object-pitch associations for each colour with the weights being the strengths of the object-colour associations. This model predicted more than half of the variance of the measured colour-pitch associations across the 24 colours. The success of the ecological model supports the idea that cross-modal correspondences are related to objects and phenomena in our environment. We suggest that different kinds of perceptual information are combined in supramodal categories that perceptually identify meaningful objects and phenomena in the environment.


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