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25-07-2017 | Original Article | Uitgave 5/2019 Open Access

Psychological Research 5/2019

Music-space associations are grounded, embodied and situated: examination of cello experts and non-musicians in a standard tone discrimination task

Psychological Research > Uitgave 5/2019
Martin Lachmair, Ulrike Cress, Tim Fissler, Simone Kurek, Jan Leininger, Hans-Christoph Nuerk


In recent research, a systematic association of musical pitch with space has been described in the so-called Spatial-Pitch-Association-of-Response Codes-effect (SPARC). Typically, high pitch is associated with upper/right and low pitch with lower/left space. However, a theoretical classification of these associations regarding their experiential sources is difficult. Therefore, we applied a theoretical framework of numerical cognition classifying similar Space-Associated Response Codes (SARC) effects according to their groundedness, embodiedness and situatedness. We tested these attributes with a group of non-musicians and with a group of highly skilled cello players playing high tones with lower hand positions (i.e., reverse SPARC alignment) in a standard SPARC context of a piano and a reversed SPARC context of a cello. The results showed that SPARC is grounded, in general. However, for cello player SPARC is also situated and embodied. We conclude that groundedness, embodiedness and situatedness provide general characteristics of mapping cognitive representations to space.

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