Washington: Our brains are wired to make music-color connections depending on how the melodies make us feel, according to a new research from the University of California, Berkeley.
For instance, Mozart`s jaunty Flute Concerto No. 1 in G major is most often associated with bright yellow and orange, whereas his dour Requiem in D minor is more likely to be linked to dark, bluish gray.
Moreover, people in both the United States and Mexico linked the same pieces of classical orchestral music with the same colors. This suggests that humans share a common emotional palette - when it comes to music and color - that appears to be intuitive and can cross cultural barriers, UC Berkeley researchers said.
"The results were remarkably strong and consistent across individuals and cultures and clearly pointed to the powerful role that emotions play in how the human brain maps from hearing music to seeing colors," said UC Berkeley vision scientist Stephen Palmer, lead author of a paper describing the study.
Using a 37-color palette, the UC Berkeley study found that people tend to pair faster-paced music in a major key with lighter, more vivid, yellow colors, whereas slower-paced music in a minor key is more likely to be teamed up with darker, grayer, bluer colors.
"Surprisingly, we can predict with 95 percent accuracy how happy or sad the colors people pick will be based on how happy or sad the music is that they are listening to," said Palmer, who will present these and related findings at the International Association of Colour conference at the University of Newcastle in the U.K. on July 8.
The findings may have implications for creative therapies, advertising and even music player gadgetry. For example, they could be used to create more emotionally engaging electronic music visualizers, computer software that generates animated imagery synchronized to the music being played. Right now, the colors and patterns appear to be randomly generated and do not take emotion into account, researchers said.
They may also provide insight into synesthesia, a neurological condition in which the stimulation of one perceptual pathway, such as hearing music, leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a different perceptual pathway, such as seeing colors.
Two subsequent experiments studying music-to-face and face-to-color associations supported the researchers` hypothesis that "common emotions are responsible for music-to-color associations," said Karen Schloss, a postdoctoral researchers at UC Berkeley and co-author of the paper.
Next, Palmer and his research team plan to study participants in Turkey where traditional music employs a wider range of scales than just major and minor.
Other co-authors of the study are Zoe Xu of UC Berkeley and Lilia Prado-Leon of the University of Guadalajara, Mexico.
The paper was published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.