Music-color associations are mediated by emotion



Experimental evidence demonstrates robust cross-modal matches between music and colors that are mediated by emotional associations. US and Mexican participants chose colors that were most/least consistent with 18 selections of classical orchestral music by Bach, Mozart, and Brahms. In both cultures, faster music in the major mode produced color choices that were more saturated, lighter, and yellower whereas slower, minor music produced the opposite pattern (choices that were desaturated, darker, and bluer). There were strong correlations (0.89 < r < 0.99) between the emotional associations of the music and those of the colors chosen to go with the music, supporting an emotional mediation hypothesis in both cultures. Additional experiments showed similarly robust cross-modal matches from emotionally expressive faces to colors and from music to emotionally expressive faces. These results provide further support that music-to-color associations are mediated by common emotional associations.




Researchers have attempted to identify systematic links between music and color. Perhaps the most direct connection comes from the fascinating phenomenon of music-color synesthesia (1-4). A small minority of individuals, including some distinguished artists (e.g., Kandinsky and Klee) and musicians (e.g., Scriabin and Rimsky-Korsokov) report diverse cross-modal experiences of color while hearing musical sounds (1). Scientific studies initially failed to establish general correspondences because synesthetic sound-to-color mappings appeared idiosyncratic.

PDF – PNAS-2013-Palmer-8836-41

Leave a Comment