Reading music modifies spatial mapping in pianists

Stewart, Lauren; Walsh, Vincent and Frith, Uta. 2004. Reading music modifies spatial mapping in pianists. Perception and psychophysics, 66(2), pp. 183-195. ISSN 0031-5117 [Article]


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Abstract or Description

We used a novel musical Stroop task to demonstrate that musical notation is automatically processed in trained pianists. Numbers were superimposed onto musical notes, and participants played five-note sequences by mapping from numbers to fingers instead of from notes to fingers. Pianists’ reaction times were significantly affected by the congruence of the note/number pairing. Nonmusicians were unaffected.
In a nonmusical analogue of the task, pianists and nonmusicians showed a qualitative difference on performance of a vertical-to-horizontal stimulus–response mapping task. Pianists were faster when stimuli specifying a leftward response were presented in vertically lower locations and stimuli specifying a rightward response were presented in vertically higher locations. Nonmusicians showed the reverse pattern. No group differences were found on a task that required horizontal-to-horizontal mappings.
We suggest that, as a result of learning to read and play keyboard music, pianists acquire vertical-to-horizontal visuomotor mappings that generalize outside the musical context.

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Date Deposited:

11 Aug 2008 12:16

Last Modified:

15 Mar 2021 19:01

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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