Listening in the Dark: Congenital and Early Blindness and Cross-Domain Mappings in Music

Zohar Eitan, Eitan Ornoy, Roni Y Granot

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We examine how individuals who are congenitally or early blind (CEB), as compared with sighted individuals, associate musical parameters with nonauditory domains. Exp1 (modeled after Eitan & Granot, 2006 ) investigated how participants associate pitch direction, loudness change and tempo change with motion features. In Exp2 (modeled after Eitan & Timmers, 2010 ), participants rated appropriateness of 10 antonyms as metaphors for two musical segments contrasting in pitch height. Most CEB's mappings of auditory parameters did not differ from those of the sighted. Notably, this included even the mapping of pitch onto visually based dimensions (e.g., lightness). This notwithstanding, CEB's mappings of musical parameters onto motion (Exp1) were distinct in several ways. First, distance change (particularly approach) was associated by CEB with tempo and pitch change, in addition to loudness. Second, and most surprisingly, the prevalent mapping of pitch direction and vertical motion was lacking among CEB (Exp1). The latter finding suggests that the elevation mapping for auditory pitch may be inherently associated with sight, perhaps stemming from early learning of spectral pinna-based elevation cues using audiovisual information.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-45
Number of pages13
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2012


  • Comparative analysis
  • Listening
  • Musicology
  • Blindness


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