Do you see what I’m singing? Visuospatial movement biases pitch perception

Louise Connell, Zhenguang G. Cai, Judith Holler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)


The nature of the connection between musical and spatial processing is controversial. While pitch may be described in spatial terms such as “high” or “low”, it is unclear whether pitch and space are associated but separate dimensions or whether they share representational and processing resources. In the present study, we asked participants to judge whether a target vocal note was the same as (or different from) a preceding cue note. Importantly, target trials were presented as video clips where a singer sometimes gestured upward or downward while singing that target note, thus providing an alternative, concurrent source of spatial information. Our results show that pitch discrimination was significantly biased by the spatial movement in gesture, such that downward gestures made notes seem lower in pitch than they really were, and upward gestures made notes seem higher in pitch. These effects were eliminated by spatial memory load but preserved under verbal memory load conditions. Together, our findings suggest that pitch and space have a shared representation such that the mental representation of pitch is audiospatial in nature.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)124–130
JournalBrain and Cognition
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2013


  • Mental representation
  • Pitch perception
  • Music
  • Space
  • Spatial representation

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