Science & Society Distinguished Public Talks

Co-sponsored by the Albuquerque Section of the Institute of Electrical & Electronic Engineers (IEEE) and its Life Members Affinity Group, Sigma Xi (the Scientific Research Society), the Department of

Physics & Astronomy, the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology, and the Division of Continuing Education.


Colour, Music, and Emotion in Synesthetes and Non-Synesthetes


Stephen E. Palmer

Thursday, 18 September 2014

The University of New Mexico Conference Center, Auditorium

1634 University Blvd. NE

Meet & Greet: 5 p.m.

Pizza with the speaker will follow the lecture

Stephen E. Palmer received his B.A. in Psychology from Princeton University in 1970 and his

PhD in Psychology at UCSD in 1975. He has taught in Psychology and Cognitive Science at UC Berkeley ever since, where he also served as Director of the Institute of Cognitive Studies. He is best known for his research on perceptual organization and his interdisciplinary book, Vision Science: Photons to Phenomenology. He now studies visual aesthetics of color and spatial composition, as well as cross-modal associations between music and vision.

Abstract. Music-to-color associations were studied in synesthetes and non-synesthetes for several kinds of music, including classical, single-line piano melodies, and 34 different genres of popular music (from heavy metal to country western). When non-synesthetes chose the colors that “went best” with each selection, faster music in the major mode was strongly associated with more saturated, lighter, yellower colors. Further evidence shows that these music-to-color associations are mediated by emotion (e.g., the happy/sad ratings of the music were highly correlated with the happy/sad ratings of the colors chosen as going best with the music . Similar emotional effects were present for lower-level musical sounds. The similarities and differences of synesthetes’ and non-synesthetes’ color experiences will be discussed.IEEE and Sigma Xi present the talk: Colour, Music, and Emotion in Synesthetes and Non-Synesthetes.