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Haptic and Tactile Adjectives Are Consistently Mapped onto Color Space

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Cross-modal associations refer to non-arbitrary associations of features across sensory modalities. Such associations have been observed between many different sensory features. One association that has rarely been studied so far is between touch and color. In this study, participants were asked to match tactile and haptic adjectives to color samples shown individually on a screen. They could select one to 11 tactile and haptic terms, presented in 11 pairs of opposed adjectives. The results showed a regular pattern in the way tactile and haptic terms were matched to color. Our results further revealed that the colors to which tactile and haptic terms were matched did not fall within the boundaries of color lexical categories, suggesting that the associations were not based on lexicon — despite the frequent occurrence of linguistic expressions such as ‘soft pink’, not all colors called ‘pink’ were matched to ‘soft’. In contrast with one recent study, the distribution of tactile and haptic terms across the Munsell array suggests that along with brightness and chroma, hue was also relevant to participants’ responses. Specifically in the case of hue, several opposed adjectives were relatively well matched to opposed colors, along the orthogonal Yellow/Blue and Red/Green axes, which are suggested to structure the space of hue experience. Possible accounts of these results are considered.

Affiliations: 1: 1Department of Philosophy, American University of Beirut, Lebanon; 2: 2Department of Psychology, American University of Beirut, Lebanon; 3: 3Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, American University of Beirut, Lebanon

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