Mental representation: what can pitch tell us about the distance effect?
Cohen Kadosh R., Brodsky W., Levin M., Henik A.
Reaction time (RT) profiles for comparing magnitudes (e.g., numbers, physical sizes) are similar - the larger the difference between the compared stimuli, the shorter the RT (distance effect). Nevertheless, it is unclear whether such correspondence is due to similar, two-dimensional, linear mental representations of magnitudes. In contrast, pitch perception has a more complex, two-dimensional, helical representation. This study examined whether comparisons of music pitches are similar to other magnitude response functions. Experiment 1 employed a comparison task, resulting in an RT profile identical to that obtained when comparing other magnitudes. In contrast, Experiment 2 employed a discrimination task, resulting in RTs that matched the helical representation and were dissociated from the classical distance effect. Experiment 3 replicated the results of Experiment 1 using a comparison task with different stimuli and intervals. These findings imply that the distance effect under comparison tasks might reflect a general sensorimotor transformation, rather than mental representation per se.