Humans readily make connections between sensory experiences, and these are often shared. Get started to learn more!
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What makes you associate one sensory experience with another?
One mechanism of crossmodal association or many?
All these answers are right! Research suggests that our senses connect in many ways, and these aren't mutually exclusive. However, each mechanism may have different consequences for behaviour.
We make crossmodal mappings between pretty much every pair of sensory modalities
Sweet tastes are mapped to sounds with more energy in the lower frequencies than sour tastes.
Sweet tastes are also matched with red-pink colours, while sour tastes are more yellow and green.
Rough surfaces are “seen” as brown, and soft surfaces “look” pink.
Still water maps to rounded shapes and sparkling water to angular shapes.
For Bauhaus artist Wassily Kandinsky and some of his contemporaries, a triangle was associated with yellow, a square with red, and a circle with blue.
Other members of the Bauhaus movement thought a square is blue and a circle is red. This is what Japanese participants think too, which may relate to their flag.
German participants seem to make colour-shape associations based on real-world objects: sun → yellow circle, warning signal → red triangle.
Cross-modality & Food
Watch this short video where University of Oxford Professor Charles Spence talks about his pioneering research in crossmodal and multisensory perception.
There's more ...
Cross-modality is just one way of how our senses interact with each other.
Synaesthesia is another, as is sound symbolism and onomatopoeia, and sensory and inter-sensory metaphors – we talk of sharp minds and sharp cheeses. There’s also memory: for example, many people associate soft, repetitive sounds with the sea. It seems automatic, but it is optional: a person that has never seen the sea will probably not have that association.
We hope you enjoyed learning more about crossmodal associations!
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