This study investigated simultaneous auditory and visual sensory processing. It was hypothesized that visible spectrum colours ROYGBIV (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet) would specifically map to tones of the 88 note piano keyboard, and presence/absence of harmonic content would manifest as measurable variability differences regarding colour choice associations between sine and harmonic tones. A sinusoidal wave colour-picker image was presented upon which participants subjectively defined borderlines between colours ROYGBIV, and then listened to 77 sine or harmonic tones/semi-tones (G#1-C8) while clicking on the colour-picker image to render colour choices. Results indicate: 1) A consistent colour-across-octaves pattern demonstrating piano keyboard mapping of pitch with colour; 2) Presence of harmonic content in tones manifests via increased variability for colour-choices—choices tending toward ‘blended’ colour borders such as yellowish-green, or greenish-blue.

The author, Jeffrey N. Howard is currently an Assistant Professor of psychology at Northern State University in Aberdeen, South Dakota. Dr. Howard received his PhD in Human Factors Psychology at Wichita State University. His primary research interests are music-cognition, audiovisual perception, and cross-sensory modality investigations. He holds master’s degrees in clinical and experimental psychology, with a bachelor’s degree in radio-television production-engineering, and has 10 + years experience in the radio-television field. As a self-taught keyboardist, guitarist, and drummer he has written, produced, and engineered his own smooth jazz CD entitled “Walking on the Moon” as well as a Christian Contemporary album titled “Leap of Faith”. One of his primary directives is combining his music technology and software programming skills to create unique presentation environments to explore human processing of cross-sensory stimulus combinations.

Read Jeffrey N. Howard’s paper here