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Cross-sensory correspondences and crosstalk between dimensions of connotative meaning: Visual angularity is hard, high-pitched, and bright.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article


Journal publication date11/2012
JournalAttention, Perception, and Psychophysics
Number of pages18
Original languageEnglish


Higher-pitched sounds are judged to be, among other things, sharper, harder, and brighter than lower-pitched sounds. Following Karwoski, Odbert, and Osgood (1942), such cross-sensory correspondences are proposed to have a semantic basis, reflecting extensive bi-directional cross-activation among dimensions of connotative meaning. On this basis, the same core set of correspondences should emerge whichever sensory feature is used to probe it. More angular (sharper) shapes should, for example, be higher-pitched and have the same cross-sensory features as higher-pitched sounds. Experiments 1 – 3 employed a speeded classification task designed to reveal cross-sensory correspondences having a semantic basis. With words as to-be-classified stimuli, and with shapes varying in angularity as concurrent incidental stimuli, congruity effects between angularity and each of hardness, pitch, and brightness, were confirmed. Correspondences with a semantic basis need not be cross-modality in nature. Experiment 4 confirmed this by reproducing the brightness-angularity congruity effect when contrasting values for both features were encoded non-verbally within the visual modality. The varying nature and origins of cross-sensory correspondences, and the basis on which they induce congruity effects in speeded classification, are explored.