Melodic sound enhances visual awareness of congruent musical notes, but only if you can read music

Predictive influences of auditory information on resolution of visual competition were investigated using music, whose visual symbolic notation is familiar only to those with musical training. Results from two experiments using different experimental paradigms revealed that melodic congruence between what is seen and what is heard impacts perceptual dynamics during binocular rivalry. This bisensory interaction was observed only when the musical score was perceptually dominant, not when it was suppressed from awareness, and it was observed only in people who could read music. Results from two ancillary experiments showed that this effect of congruence cannot be explained by differential patterns of eye movements or by differential response sluggishness associated with congruent score/melody combinations. Taken together, these results demonstrate robust audiovisual interaction based on high-level, symbolic representations and its predictive influence on perceptual dynamics during binocular rivalry.



  1. Melodic Sound and Visual Awareness: The idea that melodic sound enhances visual awareness of congruent musical notes implies a cross-modal interaction between auditory and visual perception. This suggests that hearing a melody may influence the visual processing of corresponding musical notes, potentially enhancing the detection or recognition of these notes in a visual display.
  2. Reading Music: The caveat that this effect may only occur in individuals who can read music suggests that prior experience or expertise in music notation may be necessary to benefit from the auditory-visual interaction. Individuals who are proficient in reading music may have a more robust mental representation of musical notes, allowing them to better integrate auditory and visual information related to melodic patterns.
  3. Potential Mechanisms: The mechanism underlying this phenomenon could involve multisensory integration processes in the brain, where auditory and visual inputs are combined to facilitate perception and cognition. It’s possible that hearing a melodic sound primes the visual system to attend to congruent visual stimuli, leading to enhanced visual awareness or sensitivity to musical notes.
  4. Experimental Evidence: While the statement provides a hypothesis, empirical research would be needed to confirm whether melodic sound does indeed enhance visual awareness of congruent musical notes, and whether this effect is contingent on music reading ability. Experimental studies could involve tasks where participants are asked to detect or discriminate visual stimuli (e.g., musical notes) presented in conjunction with melodic sounds, with music reading ability as a factor of interest.


The phenomenon you’re describing is known as cross-modal correspondence or cross-modal perception, where stimuli from one sensory modality (such as sound) influence or interact with stimuli from another sensory modality (such as vision). Specifically, the concept you’re referring to, where melodic sound enhances visual awareness of congruent musical notes, falls under the broader umbrella of synesthesia.

Synesthesia is a neurological phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway. In the case you described, the sound of a specific musical note or melody may evoke visual sensations or perceptions that correspond to the characteristics of the sound.

For example, research has shown that people may associate higher-pitched musical notes with lighter or brighter colors, while lower-pitched notes may be associated with darker or heavier colors. Similarly, the timbre, intensity, and duration of a sound can influence the perceived size, shape, or motion of visual stimuli.

In the context of your observation, melodic sounds that are congruent with visual stimuli (such as musical notes that match the appearance or movement of visual elements) may enhance visual awareness and perception by providing additional sensory information or reinforcing existing perceptual cues. This cross-modal interaction between auditory and visual modalities can result in a richer, more integrated perceptual experience, allowing individuals to perceive and interpret stimuli more effectively.

Overall, the phenomenon of melodic sound enhancing visual awareness of congruent musical notes highlights the complex interplay between different sensory modalities and the ways in which our brains integrate and process information from the environment to create our perceptual experiences.

Leave a Comment