Event Detail

Tue Feb 22, 2011
234 Moses Hall, 12–2 PM
Working Group in the Philosophy of Mind
Stephen Palmer (UC Berkeley Psychology Department)
Color, Music, and Emotion

Arnheim (1986) speculated that different aesthetic domains (e.g., color and music) might be related to each other through common emotional associations. We investigated this hypothesis by having participants pick from among an array of 37 colors the five colors that went best (and later the five that went worst) with each of a set of musical selections that varied in composer, tempo, and mode (major/minor). They also rated each musical selection and each color for its emotional associations (happy-sad, lively-dreary, strong-weak, angry-calm). For both orchestral music and solo piano music, systematic mappings were found between the dimensions of color and music: faster music and major mode were associated with lighter, more saturated, yellower colors, whereas slower music and minor mode were associated with darker, desaturated, bluer colors. These mappings appear to be mediated by common emotional associations, because the correlation between emotional ratings of the musical selections and emotional ratings of the colors chosen to go with them were extremely high (.90 to .98) for all emotional dimensions studied (e.g., people picked happy colors to go with happy music and dreary colors to go with dreary music). The mediating role of emotion was established by obtaining analogous effects when people picked the colors that went best (and worst) with faces and body poses that expressed emotions (happy-sad and angry-calm). Similarly high correlations were obtained when the emotional ratings of the faces/gestures were compared with corresponding emotional ratings of the colors chosen to go with them.