Music in motion : associations between musical pitch and visuospatial direction in infants and adults
Although many researchers investigate the senses separately, most people have a coherent conscious experience of the world that is not divided into separate perceptions of vision, hearing, or other senses. The brain integrates the information received from our senses into a unified representation of the world around us. Previous research has demonstrated that what people perceive with one sense can influence their perception of stimuli with the other senses (Roffler & Butler, 1968; Marks, 2000). The current set of studies was designed to illuminate the associations between musical pitch and visuospatial motion.
The first two experiments with infants revealed that 11-month-old infants are sensitive to associations between ascending and descending musical pitch and the direction of an object’s motion. Additionally, two more experiments with infants revealed that infants of the same age do not show the associations of rightward motion with ascending pitch and leftward motion with descending pitch that adults have demonstrated in some experiments (Eitan & Granot, 2006).
The fifth experiment tested the influence of ascending and descending musical stimuli on making a visuospatial motion to a target location. Adult subjects demonstrated faster reaction times when using a trackball to move a cursor to a target location on a computer screen when the direction of the target was congruent with the musical stimulus to which they were listening. The effect was stronger for vertical target locations than for horizontal target locations. The results of these studies indicate that both infants and adults are sensitive to associations between musical pitch and visuospatial motion in the vertical plane, and adults may also make associations between musical pitch and visuospatial motion in the horizontal plane.