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Atten Percept Psychophys. 2010 Oct;72(7):1994-2002. doi: 10.3758/APP.72.7.1994.

As bitter as a trombone: synesthetic correspondences in nonsynesthetes between tastes/flavors and musical notes.

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Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford, OX1 3UD, UK.


In parallel to studies of various cases of synesthesia, many cross-modal correspondences have also been documented in nonsynesthetes. Among these correspondences, implicit associations between taste and pitch have been reported recently (Crisinel & Spence, 2009, 2010). Here, we replicate and extend these findings through explicit matching of sounds of varying pitch to a range of tastes/flavors. In addition, participants in the experiment reported here also chose the type of musical instrument most appropriate for each taste/flavor. The association of sweet and sour tastes to high-pitched notes was confirmed. By contrast, umami and bitter tastes were preferentially matched to low-pitched notes. Flavors did not display such strong pitch associations. The choice of musical instrument seems to have been driven primarily by a matching of the hedonic value and familiarity of the two types of stimuli. Our results raise important questions about our representation of tastes and flavors and could also lead to applications in the marketing of food products.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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