The association of high-pitched, toned noises with small or dainty objects in sound effects is rooted in the physics of sound and our psychological perception of sound.
Sound is a vibration that travels through a medium, such as air, and is perceived by the human ear. The pitch of a sound is determined by the frequency of the vibration, with higher frequency vibrations producing higher pitched sounds and lower frequency vibrations producing lower pitched sounds. Smaller objects have a higher natural frequency of vibration, which results in a higher pitched sound when they are struck or vibrated.
In terms of psychology, high-pitched sounds are often perceived as being lighter, more delicate, and more fleeting than low-pitched sounds. This is due in part to the way that the human ear processes sound. The ear is more sensitive to high-pitched sounds, which can make them seem more prominent and attention-grabbing. Additionally, high-pitched sounds tend to decay more quickly than low-pitched sounds, which can make them seem more transient and less substantial.
In sound effects, these physical and psychological associations are leveraged to create a particular emotional response in the listener. For example, a high-pitched, tinkling sound might be used to represent a delicate glass object breaking, while a low-pitched, booming sound might be used to represent a heavy door slamming shut. By choosing the appropriate sound effect to match the object being depicted, sound designers can create a more immersive and convincing auditory experience for the listener.
In conclusion, the association of high-pitched, toned noises with small or dainty objects in sound effects is based on the physical properties of sound and the way that our ears and minds perceive sound. By carefully selecting and manipulating sound effects, sound designers can create a more compelling and emotionally engaging audio experience.
Source: "The Physics of Sound" by Richard E. Berg and David G. Stork, "The Psychology of Music" by Diana Deutsch.