Effects of pitch on auditory number comparisons.

Psychological research

PubMedID: 24832608

Campbell JI, Scheepers F. Effects of pitch on auditory number comparisons. Psychol Res. 2014;.
Three experiments investigated interactions between auditory pitch and the numerical quantities represented by spoken English number words. In Experiment 1, participants heard a pair of sequential auditory numbers in the range zero to ten. They pressed a left-side or right-side key to indicate if the second number was lower or higher in numerical value. The vocal pitches of the two numbers either ascended or descended so that pitch change was congruent or incongruent with number change. The error rate was higher when pitch and number were incongruent relative to congruent trials. The distance effect on RT (i.e., slower responses for numerically near than far number pairs) occurred with pitch ascending but not descending. In Experiment 2, to determine if these effects depended on the left/right spatial mapping of responses, participants responded "yes" if the second number was higher and "no" if it was lower. Again, participants made more number comparison errors when number and pitch were incongruent, but there was no distance × pitch order effect. To pursue the latter, in Experiment 3, participants were tested with response buttons assigned left-smaller and right-larger ("normal" spatial mapping) or the reverse mapping. Participants who received normal mapping first presented a distance effect with pitch ascending but not descending as in Experiment 1, whereas participants who received reverse mapping first presented a distance effect with pitch descending but not ascending. We propose that the number and pitch dimensions of stimuli both activated spatial representations and that strategy shifts from quantity comparison to order processing were induced by spatial incongruities.