Hearing elliptic movements reveals the imprint of action on prototypical geometries

  • Thoret Etienne
  • Aramaki Mitsuko
  • Bringoux Lionel
  • Ystad Sølvi
  • Kronland-Martinet Richard


Within certain categories of geometric shapes, prototypical exemplars that best characterize the category have been evidenced. These geometric prototypes are classically identified through the visual and haptic perception or motor production and are usually characterized by their spatial dimension. However, whether prototypes can be recalled through the auditory channel has not been formally investigated. Here we address this question by using auditory cues issued from timbre-modulated friction sounds evoking human drawing elliptic movements. Since non-spatial auditory cues were previously found useful for discriminating distinct geometric shapes such as circles or ellipses, it is hypothesized that sound dynamics alone can evoke shapes such as an exemplary ellipse. Four experiments were conducted and altogether revealed that a common elliptic prototype emerges from auditory, visual, and motor modalities. This finding supports the hypothesis of a common coding of geometric shapes according to biological rules with a prominent role of sensory-motor contingencies in the emergence of such prototypical geometry.