Differentiated audio-tactile correspondences in sighted and blind individuals

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audio tactile
audio tactile

Ophelia Deroy1 , Irène Fasiello2 , Vincent Hayward2 , & Malika Auvray

2 Affiliations

1. Centre for the Study of the Senses, School of Advanced Study, University of London, Senate House, Malet Street, WC1E 7HU London, UK.

2. Sorbonne Universités, UPMC Univ Paris 06, UMR 7222, ISIR, F-75005, Paris, France

I. Introduction

We commonly use vertical elevation to refer to auditory variations: Increases in perceived pitch are experienced and reported as ‘rising’, while decreases in pitch are considered to ‘descend’ or to ‘fall’. This spatial mapping does not strictly depend on language (Doldsheid et al., 2012; Parkinson et al., 2012) and can affect experience and behaviour in a consistent way, from the perception of sound location (Pratt, 1930; Roffler & Butler, 1968), speeded discrimination experiments (Ben-Artzi & Marks, 1995; Bernstein & Edelstein, 1971; Melara & O’Brien, 1987) and audio-visual interactions (Parise & Spence, 2008, 2009) to the orientation of attention and the perception of ambiguous visual movements (Maeda et al., 2004). In most cases, the spatial mapping of pitch has been assessed in reference to the location of visual targets or the direction of visual movement (see Occelli et al., 2009, for an exception and a review). In stimulusresponse compatibility effects in which participants are shown to be faster at responding to a high pitch sound with the upper key rather than the lower one (Rusconi et al., 2006), vision might also play a role as participants can perceive or imagine the visual organisation of the two response buttons.

In the study reported here, we investigated whether the spatial mapping of pitch was intimately tied to vision. Would the perception of a change of pitch interfere with the tactile direction of movement experienced at one’s fingertips, as it does with the visual direction of movement? If the tendency to match or map pitch and gestures seem to be grounded in musical practices, the learning of a similar correspondence between pitch and passive movement, if any, would seem less easy to explain. What’s more, given the many differences in auditory, tactile, and audiotactile perception which are introduced by visual experience (see Heller & Gentaz, 2013; Hötting & Röder, 2009 for reviews), the existence of a correspondence between pitch and tactile movement should be assessed both in blind and sighted individuals.

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