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Re: Cariani's question: "What is the visual analogue of pitch?"

Dear List,

Dave van Valkenburg and I have addressed Peter Cariani's question ("what is the visual analogue of pitch?") at some length in an article, Kubovy, M. & Van Valkenburg, D. Auditory and visual objects. Cognition. 80(1–2):97–126, 2001 Jun, which can be downloaded from:
( http://www.people.virginia.edu/~mk9y/mySite/papers/ 2001.Cognition.v80(1%0A-2).pdf ).

Our answer is that the question cannot be answered without distinguishing between different kinds of analogues. Insofar as pitch is central to the auditory "what", then the analogue is whatever sustains the visual "what", namely either space or spatial frequency (we focus on space in the article, but there's little reason to privilege either it or spatial frequency -- the analogy is at a level where sensory mechanisms are not at issue).

Here's the abstract:
Notions of objecthood have traditionally been cast in visuocentric terminology. As a result, theories of auditory and cross-modal perception have focused more on the differences between modalities than on the similarities. In this paper we re-examine the concept of an object in a way that overcomes the limitations of the traditional
perspective. We propose a new, cross-modal conception of objecthood which focuses on the similarities between modalities instead of the differences. Further, we propose that the auditory system might consist of two parallel streams of processing (the ``what'' and ``where'' subsystems) in a manner analogous to current conceptions of the visual system. We suggest that the ``what'' subsystems in each modality are concerned with objecthood. Finally, we present evidence for---and elaborate on---the hypothesis that the auditory ``where'' subsystem is in the service of visual-motor ``where'' subsystem.

Professor Michael Kubovy
University of Virginia
Department of Psychology
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