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The Kiki-Bouba effect comprises a relation between two abstract figures and two non-words: the star-shaped figure is called 'Kiki' and the rounded figure 'Bouba'. The effect is explained by a sound-vision synaesthesia: certain sounds are associated with certain shapes in a non-arbitrary manner.When we asked the participants to decide which of the two figures, the star-shaped or the rounded one, to call yin and which yang, some 85% choose the star-shaped figure as yin. There are previous cases of synaesthesia where personality is attributed to numbers or letters. In our results, the word Kiki is overall happy, clever, small, thin, young, unpleasant, and nervous. The starshaped figure is overall clever, tall, small, slim, nervous, unpleasant, and upper-class. That is, the correspondence above all concerns the qualifying adjectives clever, unpleasant, and nervous, as well as the physical appearance small and thin. This brings us to the fat-thin effect. Cinema, literature, comics, and children's programmes are full of contrasting figures: Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, Laurel and Hardy (called the fat man and the skinny man in Spain), Asterix and Obelix, Tintin and Captain Haddock, Bert and Ernie (Epi and Blas in Spanish), or the Spanish comic about very naughty twin boys called Zipi (with fair hair) and Zape (with dark hair). Our main conclusion is that first names and last names are not entirely arbitrary. There is a correspondence between (rounded vs. angular) names and physical characteristics (fat vs. thin objects or persons) and concepts (foolish vs. intelligent, nice vs. unpleasant). The Kiki-Bouba effect is a semantic one.
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Running head: Dr. Kiki I Presume.
The Kiki-Bouba effect. A case of personification: Doctor Kiki, I presume.
Emilio Gómez Milán, Oscar Iborra, de Cordoba, MJ., Juarez-Ramos V., Rodríguez Artacho, M.A.
and Rubio, J.L.
Granada University.
Author information. Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to: Emilio
Gómez Milán, Departamento de Psicología Experimental, Universidad de Granada, C/ Campus de
Cartuja s/n, 18071, Granada, Spain. Email: egomez@ugr.es. Tel: + 34 958243763, Fax: +34
958246239.
Authors contribution:
Emilio Gómez and Oscar Iborra created the experimental series, designed the experiments on
cognitive profiles and analysed all the data. De Cordoba contributed to the running and analysis of
Experiments 1 and 2.Juarez-Ramos and Rodríguez-Artacho took charge of the design and analysis
of Experiment 3. J.L. Rubio and Emilio Gómez wrote the article and J.L. Rubio run Experiment 4.
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Running head: Dr. Kiki I Presume.
Abstract
The Kiki-Bouba effect comprises a relation between two abstract figures and two non-words:
people call the star-shaped figure Kiki and the rounded figure Bouba in a proportion of 9 to 1
(Ramachandra and Hubbard, 2001). The effect is explained by a sound-vision synaesthesia: certain
sounds are associated with certain shapes in a non-arbitrary manner. If we ask the participants to
decide which of the two figures, the star-shaped or the amoeboid, to call Yin and which Yang,
between 82% choose the star-shaped figure as Yin. There are cases of synaesthesia where
personality is attributed to numbers or letters (Simmer and Holenstein, 2007). The word Kiki is
overall happy, clever, small, slim, young, nasty and nervous. The star-shaped figure is overall
clever, tall, small, slim, nervous, nasty and upper class. That is, the correspondence is above all in
the qualifying adjectives clever, nasty and nervous, and about the physical appearance small and
slim. This brings us to the fat-thin effect. The cinema, literature, comics and children’s programmes
are full of contrasting figures: Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, Ollie and Stan (the fat and the thin
in Spain), Asterix and Obelix, Tintin and Captain Haddock, Epi and Blas (in Spanish. Their original
English names are Bert and Ernie) or the Spanish comic about very naughty twin boys called Zipi
(with fair hair) and Zape (with dark hair). We are going to analyze some of these cases and their
relation with the Kiki-Bouba effect and the lips position: Forenames are not arbitrary. There is a
correspondence between (rounded versus spread) names and physical characteristics (fat or slim
objects or persons), personality (fool or intelligent, nice or nasty) or concepts.
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Running head: Dr. Kiki I Presume.
Introduction
The Kiki-Bouba effect (see Figure 1) comprises a relation between two abstract figures and two
non-words: people call the star-shaped figure Kiki and the rounded figure Bouba in a proportion of
9 to 1 (Ramachandra and Hubbard, 2001). This occurs in different languages such as Tamil,
English, Spanish and German and in children from two years old (Maurer, Pathman & Mondloch,
2006). The effect is explained by a sound-vision synaesthesia: certain sounds are associated with
certain shapes in a non-arbitrary manner. Other variations of this same explanation given by
Ramachandran and Hubbard would be that there exists congruence between sounds and the visual
form, Kiki and its figure corresponding to straight lines with abrupt changes while the non-word
Bouba and its corresponding shape are rounded with gradual changes. They also establish the
Parieto-Temporo-Occipital (PTO region) of the brain as the place where these congruencies are
detected. In addition, they have associated the opening of the mouth (closed versus open mouth) –
which would be a synkinesis – with sounds and visual forms. This has led Ramachandran to suggest
the possible implication in this effect of the mirror neurones and the Broca area (Ramachandran,
Azoulai, Stone, Srinivasan & Bijou, 2005). Another explanation usually discarded but simpler
would be that there is a visual similarity between the letters “k” and “i” and the star-shaped figure
and the letters “b” and “a” and the rounded figure. Certain evidence in favour of this simple
explanation has been contributed by Cuskley, Simner &Kirby. Against this hypothesis of visual-
visual synergy would be that the effect occurs in the Tamil language where the orthography of these
phonemes is very different and in Spanish the effect is maintained although the words are written
“qyqy” or “quyquy”, that is to say, with curved shapes and without abrupt changes, and VUVA
(with capital letters to avoid rounded shapes).
Insert Figure 1 here
The Kiki-Bouba effect would have become an anecdote if Ramachandran and Hubbard had not
related it to the origin of language through their hypothesis of Bootstrapping: the way we put names
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Running head: Dr. Kiki I Presume.
to things is not arbitrary. In all languages the words for “large” are spoken with the mouth open and
the words for “small” with the mouth closed. The word to denominate the other (“you”) is spoken
with the lips turned outwards and the word “me” with the lips turned inwards. It is not difficult to
fault the logic involved in verifying these examples, for example, in Spanish the word “yo” (I in
english) does not involve turning the mouth inwards. The word “agudo” (high-pitched) includes the
letter G but so do “gordo” (fat), “grave” (low-pitched), “largo” (long) and “delgado” (slim). The
aim of this article is to submit to a hypothesis test the explanations ascribed to the effect and to
check what it has to do with the origin of language: Exactly with the correspondence between
names and concepts, between forenames and persons descriptions.
Experiment 1: A case of ideaesthesia?
If we ask the participants to decide which of the two figures, the star-shaped or the amoeboid, to
call Yin and which Yang (we also used Yan; also Tic versus Tac, or “i” versus “a” with identical
results), between 75% to 90% respectively choose the star-shaped figure as Yin (we replicated the
yin-yang effect twice with groups of 100 and 50 persons from ages between 10 to 80). In all
experiments of our set the position left or right of the figures in the screen were counterbalanced. At
the same time, Yin and Yang being the denominations for opposing categories: man-woman, God-
the Devil, black-white, heat-cold… This made us think that perhaps the open and closed mouth
associated with open (a) and closed vowels (i) might be the non-arbitrary mode for denominating
opposites. Ideaesthesia (Nikolic, 2009) is an association not between senses, like synaesthesia, but
of a conceptual type between ideas or between a sense and an idea (such as when we represent
intelligence with an illuminated light, that is, like seeing). It is possible that certain sounds and/or
certain openings of the mouth are associated with meanings, with ideas. The question is: what do
the non-words Kiki and Bouba and the abstract star-shaped and amoeboid figures mean? We
decided to find out by constructing a profile of the conceptual associations of the words and the
images separately to see if they coincided. On one side we used a list of opposing categories, as
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Running head: Dr. Kiki I Presume.
words for the images and images for the words Kiki and Bouba. The categories of opposites used
were those associated with Yin and Yang: white versus black, man versus woman, God versus the
Devil, stillness versus movement, heat versus cold, brain versus body… Well, we used these words
to denominate the figures or we used images of God and the Devil, a white point and a black one…
for the words Kiki and Bouba. When an image was confusing, for example representing heat by the
sun, which could recall the star shape but is curved at the same time, we used several images to
check that the effect was not specific to the image but was conceptual (a steaming cup, a
thermometer indicating a high temperature…).
Subsequently, we detail only those results that deviate from chance in each profile (profile 1 or the
Yin-yang profile) for both the images and the words. We describe the word Kiki and the star-shaped
figure, knowing that Bouba and the amoeboid figure will be exactly the opposite. Again, 50 people,
30 women, with ages between 20 to 45, took this test.
In Profile 1 or that of Yin and Yang, for the word Kiki: white (70%), movement – person running –
(81%), woman screaming (75%), cold – person in a coat shivering in a snowy landscape – (77%) or
igloo (65%), body – image of headless anatomical atlas body – (72%). In the remaining categories
(God-the Devil, naked woman-naked man…) the choice was random, always around 50%. That is,
the word Bouba was a black dot, an image of stillness (person in a yoga pose: lotus flower), face of
man screaming, heat (person sweating under a blazing sun or a hot cup) and brain (image of a
lateral vision of the human brain).
For the star-shaped figure: man (73%), black (68%), cold (85% or 78%), high pitched voice (83%),
devil (60%). In the remaining categories the choice was random (when choosing the words body-
brain, movement-stillness, masculine or feminine voice…). That is, the profile is poor and different
for the figures and the words. They become opposite in terms of colour and different in sex: the
star-shaped figure is black and masculine, the word Kiki is white and more feminine. Figure and
word coincide in relation to cold and high pitched voice. In any case, the key to the Kiki-Bouba
effect would not appear to be in this battle of opposites, where the percentages do not move in the
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Running head: Dr. Kiki I Presume.
proportion 9-1 either.
Experiment 2: Personalisation
We established a second profile based on personalisation. Human beings tend to empathise with
objects, to think our car is strong or nice. There are cases of synaesthesia where personality is
attributed to numbers or letters (Simmer and Holenstein, 2007). Given the possible involvement of
the opening of the mouth and, consequently, of the mirror neurones and their relation with empathy,
we proposed a game to our participants: the star-shaped figure and the amoeboid figure are two
extraterrestrials and we must decide which is: clever versus silly, tall versus short, fat versus thin,
nice versus nasty, large versus small, upper class (rich, boss, business man) versus low class (poor,
worker, employee…).
For the Kiki-Bouba words, we indicated that they were two foreign words and that participants
should say which meant tall versus short, large versus small… In this case, the concepts were
represented by means of drawings: for large as opposed to small, we used a large rectilinear castle
and another identical but in miniature (a rectilinear figure) or two identical elephants (one big and
one in miniature: a curved figure) to avoid confounds with curved versus linear figures (the reader
must remember that the main explanation of the Kiki-Bouba effect from Ramachandran is based on
the correspondence between straight lines versus rounded figures and the words). We also used a
hand with the thumb and index finger separated to indicate something large, or almost together for
small (suggesting pliers, more open or less open). We used a list of more frequent adjectives to
describe persons after a first look elaborated asking 30 participants (university students) for open
descriptions of human pictures.
In Profile 2 or that of personality, for the word Kiki: Clever (78%), tall (66%), small (between 85%
to 88% in all cases: elephant, castle or hand), slim (88%), happy (76%), extrovert (68%), young
(80%), nervous (90%), nice (51%) and upper class (48%). For the star-shaped figure: Clever (77%),
tall (80%), small (75%), slim (95%), happy (65%), extrovert (38%), young (58%), nervous (81%),
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Running head: Dr. Kiki I Presume.
nasty (79%) and upper class (78%). We depicted in black letters the results equal or above 75%.
The word Kiki is overall happy, clever, small, slim, young and nervous. The star-shaped figure is
overall clever, tall, slim, nervous, nasty and upper class. That is, the correspondence is above all in
the qualifying adjectives clever and nervous, and about the physical appearance slim and small.
In summary, Kiki can have multiple meanings, as can the star-shaped figure. Some of them
independent of the straight line-rounded figures contrast (like in the case of the adjective small).
Also their correspondence occurs on the level of a physical description: both tend to be slim. In the
simplest of cases we are talking about a sound-vision synaesthesia (the “i” is a sharp, high-pitched
sound; the “a” is low and deep).
A type of synesthesia in normal people is to say to someone: you have the face of Alexander or of
Eva. When we say this, we mean that the person appears to us beautiful like Eva or strong and
attractive like Alexander the Great or not very clever or young or old, that is, we make evaluations
of people’s physical attractiveness, social class or personality on first impressions and about the
correspondence with their names. In the Kiki-Bouba effect, Kiki is an appropriate name for objects
or people that are slim or small, perhaps also clever and nervous, vertical; the star-figure shares
these characteristics.
Experiment 2-b
We ask 50 participants to look at nude human silhouettes filled in black ink that can belong to a
woman or a man who can be slim or fat and to decide who is clever or fool, nervous or quiet, nice
or nasty, rich or poor. The results for the slim man were: clever (70%), nervous (80%), nice (23%)
and poor (68%). The results for the slim woman were: Clever (50%), nervous (78%), nice (25%)
and poor (25%). It is clear that slim figure means nervous and nasty, fat figure means nice and fool
and there is still sexism in the intelligency and social class attribution. The reader can remember
now that the star-figure was clever, masculine, nasty and upper class.
To summarise, perhaps the Kiki-bouba effect has something to do a) with the correspondence
between a psychophysical characteristic, the tone and some physical-visual characteristics (tall,
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Running head: Dr. Kiki I Presume.
thin, small), which is perceptive synaesthesia; or b) with the assignation of names to objects in
terms of correspondence in personalisation (attributing personality) between names (whether
phonemes, syllables or words) and objects (even if they are inanimate or not), that is, it is a case of
ideaesthesia or conceptual synaesthesia; In the following experiments we try to distinguish between
these two possibilities. Or perhaps there is a first order correspondence between acoustic
characteristics and visual characteristics and a second order correspondence between acoustic-
visual characteristics and personality.
Experiment 3: The Don Quixote effect: person-name synaesthesia.
A variant of the synaesthesia called Ordinal Linguistic Personification (OLP) exists where
personality, at least gender and colour, is attributed to numbers and letters, as we have already
outlined. The letter “i” for a synaesthete of this type is a thin, white woman. The opposite effect also
exists: attributing a grapheme to a person (you are number one) is person-number synaesthesia
(Milán et al., submitted). It could be that the Kiki-Bouba effect corresponds to one of these opposed
variants or to their congruence. On the one hand, the OLP type of synaesthesia, the names Kiki and
Bouba, can be reduced to the vowels “i” and “a” and these to the psycho-physical property of the
tone (high-pitched or low). Presenting the star-shaped and amoeboid figures, if we ask which
corresponds to a high-pitched or a low-pitched voice, 83% choose the star-shaped figure as the
high-pitched voice. In other words “i” is a vertical vowel and “a” is a horizontal vowel. We also
asked 50 new persons to decide the correspondence between vertical and horizontal lines of the
same size and the words Kiki and Bouba. 90% of them selected the vertical line like Kiki (another
correspondence independent of the straight line-rounded contrast).
On the other hand, figures can be personified in physical and psychological terms, such as
something tall and thin, clever and nervous (in the case of the star-shaped form). Then the figures
are associated according to their congruency with the tone (object-phoneme synaesthesia). This
brings us to the fat-thin effect. The cinema, literature, comics and children’s programmes are full of
contrasting figures: Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, Ollie and Stan (the fat and the thin in Spain),
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Running head: Dr. Kiki I Presume.
Asterix and Obelix, Tintin and Captain Haddock, Epi and Blas (in Spanish. Their original English
names are Bert and Ernie; in German Bernie and Ert; in Latin America Berto and Enrique) or the
Spanish comic about very naughty twin boys called Zipi (with fair hair) and Zape (with dark hair).
We are going to analyze some of these cases and their relation with the Kiki-Bouba effect. For
example, the names Bert and Ernie do not pose any problem, but in Spanish calling them Epi and
Blas generates some incongruence. Many people in Spain confuse them. The two characters were
created by Don Sahlin, based on the contrast in their appearance: one is like a banana or a lemon
and the other like an orange, one is tall and thin (vertical), the other short and with a horizontal face
(chubby). The chubby character was naughty and the tall character grumpy-bored. The short chubby
one is Epi and the tall thin one Blas.
We took 30 persons over-50s who remembered the characters but were not sure of their names and
we asked them which was which. They chose Epi (Ernie) as the tall one and Blas (Bert) as the short
one in 65%, that is, they got it wrong. Lastly, we presented them with the drawings of Epi (Ernie:
tall and slim) and Blas (Bert: fat and shorter) and asked them to indicate which was called Kiki and
which Bouba. 70% of them chose the tall thin one as Kiki and the short fat one as Bouba.
We obtained the same result if we presented photos of the Fat one and the Thin one of silent movies
to twenty different people who didn’t know them well and asked which was Ollie and which Stan.
75% affirmed that the fat one was Stan and the thin one Ollie, when the reverse is true. If we
presented the images of the fat one and the thin one and asked them which was Kiki and which was
Bouba, they chose the fat one as Bouba in 90%. We did the same with the figures of Don Quijote
and Sancho Panza, 85% chose Don Quijote like Kiki. It is clear now that Mr. Kiki must be a tall and
slim man. Probably also nasty, intelligent and upper class: Doctor Kiki, I presume. Another
congruent case is that of Tintin (tall, thin and fair) and Captain Haddock (more thickset, dark and
masculine). Therefore, rather than a sound-vision synaesthesia, we are talking about an ideaesthesia,
since it occurs between two dominions, one of which is the sound and the other the global
appearance of the figure (slim versus fat). Associations are then made between physical
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Running head: Dr. Kiki I Presume.
characteristics (slim or fat) and personality (clever, nasty…).
A similar incongruence occurs in the case of R (Milán et al, 2007), a multi-synaesthete who
experiences a yellow photism with the number 3 and the letter i, but while this photism appears to
him as congruent with the letter i, it generates incongruence and unease with the number 3, since
this is round while the i is vertical, and yellow is the colour of shrillness (lurid yellow), screams,
pain, bells and intelligence for R. There is a Spanish comic where the twins are differentiated only
by the colour of their hair: one is Zipi (the fair one) and the other Zape (the dark one). If we ask 20
people who are not familiar with them which is which, 80% say that Zipi is the fair one. If we tell
them that one is a boy and the other a girl and ask them which is which, they affirm in a proportion
of 82% that the girl is the fair one. If we present them with images of the two children and ask
which one is Kiki and which one is Bouba, Kiki is the fair one (70%). Probably exists other
psychological characteristics associated to sex, hair colour or physical look and names related
directly to the visual form and to the characters.
Experiment 4: The lips position role
If we ask to fifty new participants to decide which of the two figures, the star-shaped or the
amoeboid, to call “i” and wich “a”, 80% chose the star-shaped figure as “i”. The same happens if
we try “i” versus “o” (86%) or “i” versus “u” (90%). However if we try “i” versus “e” only 59%
choose “i” like the star-shaped figure. This could be explained by the role of the vowel “i” (closed
vowel) versus “a” (open vowel). It means that the psychophysic distance is shorter or the mouth
opening is more similar for the vowels “i” and “e”. In other words, it is the part of the tongue that
is raised (front vowels: i and e. Central vowel=a. Back vowel =o and u) and not the height to which
it is raised (close vowels= i and u. Mid vowel= e and o. Open vowel= a). In fact, the main point can
be the position of the lips (relaxed or spread vowels= i and e versus rounded or circular mouth
opening vowels = a, o and u). Front vowels are spread vowels in some languages in others however
the landscape is more complex. In words like Bouba the combination of the vowels “o”, “u” and “a”
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Running head: Dr. Kiki I Presume.
makes the word a rounded word (the same happens to Maluma). Kiki and Takete are mainly spread
words. Lips position plays a role in the Kiki-Bouba effect probably in combination with mouth
opening (e versus i deviated from random).
General Discussion
The Kiki-Bouba effect corresponds to a sound-vision synaesthesia, probably between the tone of
vowels and the vertical or horizontal aspect of figures. This correspondence can be extended to the
personality features of the vowels or of the figures. The involvement of the mirror neurones is not
clear; at least it does not seem necessary in the synaesthetic component of the effect, though
possibly it is so in the empathy underlying its ideasthetic interpretation, that is, when we generalise
the sound-vision correspondence to the field of the personality of sounds and objects. However
there is a role of the lips position even in the first order sound-vision synesthesia. Detecting the
correspondence between tone and the spatial characteristic of being vertical (tall, slim) or horizontal
(short, fat) does not appear to demand a high level of abstraction either. The abrupt-straight,
gradual-curved properties do not seem to play any special role in the effect (similar to vertical
versus horizontal contrast or to big versus small contrast). With regard to their importance in
understanding the origin of language, we do believe the Kiki-Bouba effect is of great interest: even
forenames are not arbitrary, they are related to personality and physical aspect to result congruent.
For example, the word intelligence has some repeated vowels in different languages (Spanish,
Portuguese, Italian, German, English…) -the vowels “i” and “e” - and similar constructions and
synonymous adjectives or names like keen intelligence, brilliant, brilliance, light, lighting,
illumination, cleverness or wit in English (spread words). In Spanish: Inteligencia, brillante,
iluminacion, listo, ingenio, perspicacia o intelecto. About the word fool (bobo, romo, boludo in
Spanish), stupid (estúpido in Spanish) or dumb (rounded words). However we can find
counterexamples like idiot, silly, astute, sharp, smart or acute. Something similar happens to the
words fat (gordo in spanish)- chubby, plump, obese, rotund, dumpy, gross but also fleshy- and slim
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Running head: Dr. Kiki I Presume.
(delgado in spanish)-slim, thin, slender, fine, slight, flimsy but also small-. But in general rounded
words are related to circular and horizontal figures like a ball and spread words to vertical and thin
figures like a knife. Bouba means big, rounded, horizontal and also fool, nice or good (pleasant)
like Ernie, Sancho Panza or Ollie in his real life. Kiki means small, slim, vertical, intelligent and
nasty (unfriendly, unpleasant, serious) like Bernie, Don Quijote or Stan in his real life.
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Running head: Dr. Kiki I Presume.
Acknowledgements. This study was supported by a grant from the Spanish Ministry of Education
and Science: Cognitive flexibility in synaesthesia and cognitive rehabilitation (ref.:PSI2009-11789)
to E. G. Milán.
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Running head: Dr. Kiki I Presume.
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M.J. (submitted). Nature.
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phenomenon. Proceedings of the third International Congress on Synaesthesia, Science and Art,
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synesthesia. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 19 84): 694-703.
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Figure 1
Kiki-Bouba Figures
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... Tha angular is generally labelled takete and the rounded one maluma. This association is based on similarity of intersensory features, as confirmed by later studies (e.g., Kwok et al., 2018;Milan et al., 2013). It should be stressed that we do not use the term association as it was used by Associationists and Empiricists, or by Fechner (see Ortlieb et al., 2020) which is a derivation of the former. ...
... The same associations are found also with emotional characters. The angular shaped figure is clever, tall, small, slim, nervous, nasty, upper class, masculine, and tendentially happy (Milan et al., 2013). Several studies have been focused on the evidence that shapes with angular lines are considered more threatening than shapes composed of curved lines (Aronoff et al., 1988(Aronoff et al., , 1992Bar and Neta, 2006). ...
... p < 0.001, p 2 = 0.17). Note that the fact that smooth stimuli tend to be perceived as female is consistent with the existing literature (Milan et al., 2013;Palumbo et al., 2015;Stroessner et al., 2020). ...
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A large number of studies have focused on the aesthetic value of smoothly curved objects. By contrast, angular shapes tend to be associated with tertiary qualities such as threat, hardness, loudness, nervousness, etc. The present study focuses on the effect of curvilinearity vs angularity on the aesthetic experience of design artefacts. We used the drawings of everyday objects with novel shapes created by 56 designers (IUAV image dataset). Each drawing had two versions: a smooth and an angular version. To test new tertiary associations, beyond aesthetic value, we obtained ratings for seven characteristics (‘soft/hard, sad/cheerful, male/female, bad/good, aggressive/peaceful, agitated/serene, useless/useful’) from 174 naïve observers. Importantly, each naïve rater saw only one of the two versions of an object. The results confirmed a significant relation between smoothness and hardness as well as other (tertiary) associations. The link between smoothness and usefulness confirms that perceptual utility is significantly influenced by the shape of the object. This finding suggests that tertiary qualities convey both static and functional information about design objects. The role of perceptual constraints in drawing design artefacts is also discussed.
... Lindauer (1990) demonstrated that English speakers judged the sound "takete" to be unfriendly and tough, whereas the sound "maluma" was considered to be friendly and tender. Milán et al. (2013) reported that Spanish speakers judged the word "kiki" to be clever and nervous. Kawahara et al. (2015) showed that Japanese and English speakers associate similar sound-symbolic features with personality traits: "difficult" personalities are typically associated with a phonetic class of sounds called obstruents. ...
... The SSW "gusu-gusu" describes a slow and silent, inactive personality (Osada et al., 2019). In addition, sound-symbolic features related to personality traits have been found in Indo-European languages, such as English and Spanish (Lindauer, 1990;Milán et al., 2013;Kawahara et al., 2015). It would be interesting to investigate the differences in personality categories among different languages, as our approach might be applicable to other languages that have SSWs. ...
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Researchers typically use the “big five” traits (Extroversion, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Neuroticism, and Openness) as a standard way to describe personality. Evaluation of personality is generally conducted using self-report questionnaires that require participants to respond to a large number of test items. To minimize the burden on participants, this paper proposes an alternative method of estimating multidimensional personality traits from only a single word. We constructed a system that can convert a sound-symbolic word (SSW) that intuitively expresses personality traits into information expressed by 50 personality-related adjective pairs. This system can obtain information equivalent to the adjective scales using only a single word instead of asking many direct questions. To achieve this, we focused on SSWs in Japanese that have the association between linguistic sounds and meanings and express diverse and complex aspects of personality traits. We evaluated the prediction accuracy of the system and found that the multiple correlation coefficients for 48 personality-related adjective pairs exceeded 0.75, indicating that the model could explain more than half of the variations in the data. In addition, we conducted an evaluation experiment in which participants rated the appropriateness of the system output using a seven-point scale (with −3 as absolutely inappropriate and +3 as completely appropriate). The average score for 50 personality-related adjective pairs was 1.25. Thus, we believe that this system can contribute to the field of personality computing, particularly in terms of personality evaluation and communication.
... The bouba-kiki effect consists in the significant general agreement that the figure on the left is Kiki, and that the one on the right is Bouba (e.g., Ramachandran & Hubbard, 2001). While different explanations for the effect have been proposed, e.g., that it has a semantic basis (Milan et al., 2013) or that it is influenced by orthography (Cuskley et al., 2017), most theories assume a cross-modal correspondence between the geometrical shapes (i.e., the visual domain) and the sound of the words (i.e., the auditory domain): the "sharp" shape is associated with the "sharp" word Kiki, while the "soft" shape is associated with the "soft" word Bouba. This explanation is supported by the demonstration of the bouba-kiki effect across 86 Sometimes referred to as cross-modal integration, cross-modal association, cross-modal perception, or crossmodal analogy. ...
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This dissertation explores holistic harmony identification. Aural training theorist Gary S. Karpinski depicts this as the most effective and precise form of harmonic listening, but a clear definition and understanding of its nature have been lacking. There has also been a lack of pedagogical strategies for advancing the development of such listening skills in aural training students—indeed, Karpinski questions whether such strategies are possible at all. The dissertation consists of three parts. The first part is a theoretical study, in which the concept of holistic harmony identification is explored broadly through a combination of Gestalt theory and an ecological approach to perception. The study closes with a discussion of possible pedagogical approaches, including a “metaphorical” approach to harmonic listening. This approach is based on the claim that hearing a chord or progression "as" something is a way of acknowledging and verbalizing its holistic quality. The dissertation’s second part is a qualitative document analysis that further explores “metaphorical listening.” Through an analysis of 20 textbooks on harmony, examples of cross-domain mapping in esthesic descriptions of chords and progressions are recorded and discussed. The main aim is to examine whether certain metaphor structures are more recurrent than others, which might suggest a relevance for harmonic aural training. The study’s theoretical framework is conceptual metaphor theory. The third part is a statistical study that examines one of the metaphors found in the document analysis: harmonic luminosity, or the idea that harmony can express “brightness” and “darkness.” The phenomenon is examined empirically through a web-based experiment with 236 participants. The study shows that harmonic luminosity is likely more perceptually complex than it is portrayed in textbooks using this metaphor. The results also indicate that harmonic luminosity might require some degree of perceptual learning. The dissertation’s main contribution is a conceptual framework for holistic harmony identification, which both elucidates the concept and enables more targeted pedagogical approaches. In a further exploration of such approaches, novel perspectives on the role of metaphor in musical harmony are offered.
... These sub-categories were defined by the authors, taking into account the patterns of gestural drawing identified by Matthew (2003) and Nicolaides (1941/60), as well as patterns of graphic elements described by the literature of teaching art. In addition, the studies on Bouba Kiki effects (Gomez, et al., 2013) according to which visual shapes (e.g., round or spiky) are associated with corresponding sounds, contributed to define the above sub-categories. PHASE 3 -After identifying different graphic elements in the drawings, their occurrence in the drawings was counted and added up for each group, respectively for the pre-test and the post-test. ...
Thesis
As increasingly confirmed within the paradigm of embodied music cognition, the body shapes the way listeners perceive and make sense of music. Accordingly, this Ph.D research project aims to understand the role of body movement on children’s musical sense-making through two empirical studies setup in an educational ecological setting of primary school. In both studies, the children’s graphical representations of the music and their verbal explanations of the drawings were used to probe children’s musical sense-making. The first study investigated how and in what way a verbal vs. bodily interaction with the music influences the children musical sense-making. Results offer relevant insights into the role of body movement to enhance the identification of more musical features and their temporal organization. Based on the findings of the first study, a second study was carried out to investigate the influence of different qualities (discrete vs. continuous movements) of bodily interactions with music on children’ music meaning formation. Findings of the second study show that based on the quality of movement interaction the children changed the categories of visual representations, arousal, and number of voices of the music described. At a meta- perspective level, the adoption of a multimodal approach (e.g., bodily, visual, and verbal) emerged to be an effective mean to enhance a deeper music understanding. In addition, body movement appears to be a viable way to foster a creative listening through creative navigation of the musical affordance landscape.
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Duality of patterning, which refers to the fact that in languages a limited number of meaningless units combine to create an unlimited number of meaningful units, is considered a language design feature, a property that any human language is expected to have. However, some emerging sign languages have been claimed to lack this property, and some research on spoken languages suggests that it is a strong statistical tendency rather than a universal property of human language. In this dissertation, I explore the possibility that duality of patterning is an emergent property, and it is so widespread because some commonality of human communication motivates its emergence repeatedly, across languages of different types and even modalities. I argue that this commonality is the human body. I adopt the Embodied Cognition framework, which views the body as integral to cognitive processing via the sensorimotor systems that are active not only in action but also in mental imagery and conceptual representation. It views cognition as emergent from embodied experiences of the sensorimotor system, perception, and interaction with the environment. “Abstract” properties of higher cognition are epiphenomenal to the lower-level habitual functioning of bodies in their environments, which is true of language as well. One way to understand how duality of patterning could emerge phylogenetically is via iconicity; iconicity is claimed to be a bridge between language and sensorimotor experiences. I argue that meaningless sublexical componentiality develops as a consequence of the emergence and conventionalization of meaningful sublexical componentiality. We should expect the emergence of meaningful sublexical componentiality in phylogenesis, because we are embodied creatures, and both the content and the form of our communicative messages are motivated and constrained by the structure and kinematics of our bodies. If both the content and the form of the message are embodied, we should expect to find effects of embodiment both in the iconic prototypes chosen to create an iconic sign, and in the phonetic form of a sign. Therefore, I explore the role of two factors, iconicity and kinematics, in contributing to the emergence of a conventionalized inventory of meaningful sublexical segments in the visual-manual modality.
Article
An increasing amount of research emphasises the influence of body movement on the perception of music. This study contributes to the research by investigating whether varied qualities of body movement, when aligned to music may affect the way children attribute meaning to that music. To address this question, 34 children (aged 9–10) were divided into two groups, each of which engaged in distinct listening activities by aligning with discrete versus continuous movements on diverse pieces of music. As a pre- and post-test, children were first invited to move freely to a piece of music and subsequently to draw a visual representation of the piece. Finally, they were asked to verbally explain how the drawings were linked with the music. Findings, based on the children’s drawings and verbal explanations, offer interesting insights on the way different qualities of body movement can influence the categories of visual representations, arousal and voices of the music described. Moreover, the role of visual representation emerges as a way to gain insight into a child’s musical sense-making, principally when the product is analysed together with the process and the gestures employed to accomplish it. The findings of this study may offer relevant insights for music education. Firstly, in the way movement may influence music sense-making and secondly, how multimodal interaction (bodily, visual and verbal) may inform the process of musical understanding in children.
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Proceedings of the DRS LEARN X DESIGN 2021: 6th International Conference for Design Education Researchers Engaging with Challenges in Design Education: 10th Anniversary of the International Conference for Design Education Researchers Editors: Erik Bohemia; Liv Merete Nielsen; Lusheng Pan; Naz A.G.Z. Börekçi & Yang Zhang Section Editors: Úrsula Bravo; Catalina Cortés; Jeannette LaFors; Fabio Andres Telle; Natalia Allende; Eva Lutnæs; Karen Brænne; Siri Homlong; Hanna Hofverberg; Ingvill Gjerdrum https://learnxdesign.net/lxd2021/
Book
Proceedings of the DRS LEARN X DESIGN 2021: 6th International Conference for Design Education Researchers Engaging with Challenges in Design Education: 10th Anniversary of the International Conference for Design Education Researchers Editors: Erik Bohemia; Liv Merete Nielsen; Lusheng Pan; Naz A.G.Z. Börekçi & Yang Zhang Section Editors: Úrsula Bravo; Catalina Cortés; Jeannette LaFors; Fabio Andres Telle; Natalia Allende; Eva Lutnæs; Karen Brænne; Siri Homlong; Hanna Hofverberg; Ingvill Gjerdrum https://learnxdesign.net/lxd2021/
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We investigated grapheme--colour synaesthesia and found that: (1) The induced colours led to perceptual grouping and pop-out, (2) a grapheme rendered invisible through `crowding' or lateral masking induced synaesthetic colours --- a form of blindsight --- and (3) peripherally presented graphemes did not induce colours even when they were clearly visible. Taken collectively, these and other experiments prove conclusively that synaesthesia is a genuine perceptual phenomenon, not an effect based on memory associations from childhood or on vague metaphorical speech. We identify different subtypes of number--colour synaesthesia and propose that they are caused by hyperconnectivity between colour and number areas at different stages in processing; lower synaesthetes may have cross-wiring (or cross-activation) within the fusiform gyrus, whereas higher synaesthetes may have cross-activation in the angular gyrus. This hyperconnectivity might be caused by a genetic mutation that causes defective pruning of connections between brain maps. The mutation may further be expressed selectively (due to transcription factors) in the fusiform or angular gyri, and this may explain the existence of different forms of synaesthesia. If expressed very diffusely, there may be extensive cross-wiring between brain regions that represent abstract concepts, which would explain the link between creativity, metaphor and synaesthesia (and the higher incidence of synaesthesia among artists and poets). Also, hyperconnectivity between the sensory cortex and amygdala would explain the heightened aversion synaesthetes experience when seeing numbers printed in the `wrong' colour. Lastly, kindling (induced hyperconnectivity in the temporal lobes of temporal lobe epilepsy [TLE] patients) may explain the purp...
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The renewed interest that has emerged around the topic of crossmodal correspondences in recent years has demonstrated that crossmodal matchings and mappings exist between the majority of sensory dimensions, and across all combinations of sensory modalities. This renewed interest also offers a rapidly-growing list of ways in which correspondences affect — or interact with — metaphorical understanding, feelings of 'knowing', behavioral tasks, learning, mental imagery, and perceptual experiences. Here we highlight why, more generally, crossmodal correspondences matter to theories of multisensory interactions.
Article
Synaesthesia is a condition in which one type of stimulation evokes the sensation of another, as when the hearing of a sound produces photisms, i.e. mental percepts of colours. R is a 20 year old colour blind subject who, in addition to the relatively common grapheme-colour synaesthesia, presents a rarely reported cross modal perception in which a variety of visual stimuli elicit aura-like percepts of colour. In R, photisms seem to be closely related to the affective valence of stimuli and typically bring out a consistent pattern of emotional responses. The present case study suggests that colours might be an intrinsic category of the human brain. We developed an empirical methodology that allowed us to study the subject's otherwise inaccessible phenomenological experience. First, we found that R shows a Stroop effect (delayed response due to interference) elicited by photisms despite the fact that he does not show a regular Stroop with real colours. Secondly, by manipulating the colour context we confirmed that colours can alter R's emotional evaluation of the stimuli. Furthermore, we demonstrated that R's auras may actually lead to a partially inverted emotional spectrum where certain stimuli bring out emotional reactions opposite to the normal ones. These findings can only be accounted for by considering R's subjective colour experience or qualia. Therefore the present paper defends the view that qualia are a useful scientific concept that can be approached and studied by experimental methods.
Article
( This reprinted article originally appeared in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, 1935, Vol 18, 643–662. The following abstract of the original article appeared in PA, Vol 10:1863.) In this study pairs of conflicting stimuli, both being inherent aspects of the same symbols, were presented simultaneously (a name of one color printed in the ink of another color—a word stimulus and a color stimulus). The difference in time for reading the words printed in colors and the same words printed in black is the measure of the interference of color stimuli on reading words. The difference in the time for naming the colors in which the words are printed and the same colors printed in squares is the measure of the interference of conflicting word stimuli on naming colors. The interference of conflicting color stimuli on the time for reading 100 words (each word naming a color unlike the ink-color of its print) caused an increase of 2.3 sec or 5.6% over the normal time for reading the same words printed in black. This increase is not reliable, but the interference of conflicting word stimuli on the time for naming 100 colors (each color being the print of a word which names another color) caused an increase of 47.0 sec or 74.3% of the normal time for naming colors printed in squares.… (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Article
Köhler (1929) reported anecdotally that, when asked to choose, subjects were much more likely to attach the name 'takete' to a spiky abstract object, and the name 'baluma' (or, by 1947, 'maluma') to a curvy abstract object. Follow-up work has suffered from the same three weaknesses as Köhler's original anecdotal study: a reliance on small number of stimuli carefully selected by the experimenter; the use of manipulations that were transparent to the subject; and the use of overtly semantic tasks. This paper reports two experiments that replicate and extend Köhler's claims using an implicit interference task that allows for multiple measures per subject, and does not require subjects to make explicit decisions about the relation between visual form and meaning. Subjects undertook a lexical or letter decision task with the stimuli presented inside spiky or curvy frames. Reaction times show interference patterns consistent with Köhler's claims. This demonstrates that the effect is pre-semantic. Neurological reasons for these word/shape and character/shape interference phenomena are discussed.
Article
A striking demonstration that sound-object correspondences are not completely arbitrary is that adults map nonsense words with rounded vowels (e.g. bouba) to rounded shapes and nonsense words with unrounded vowels (e.g. kiki) to angular shapes (Köhler, 1947; Ramachandran & Hubbard, 2001). Here we tested the bouba/kiki phenomenon in 2.5-year-old children and a control group of adults (n =20 per age), using four pairs of rounded versus pointed shapes and four contrasting pairs of nonsense words differing in vowel sound. Overall, participants at both ages matched words with rounded vowels to the rounder shapes and words with unrounded vowels to the pointed shapes (both ps < .0005), with no significant difference between the two ages (p > .10). Such naturally biased correspondences between sound and shape may influence the development of language.
Article
This study examines the principles underlying ordinal linguistic personification (OLP): the involuntary and automatic tendency in certain individuals to attribute animate-like qualities such as personality and gender to sequential linguistic units (e.g., letters, numerals, days, months). This article aims to provide four types of evidence that OLP constitutes a form of synesthesia and is likely to have the same neurodevelopmental basis. We show that (a) OLP significantly co-occurs with other variants of synesthesia, (b) OLP associations (like those of synesthesia) are highly consistent over time (Experiment 1), (c) OLP associations (like those of synesthesia) have the characteristic of letter-to-word transference (i.e., they spread from initial letters throughout words) (Experiment 2), and (d) OLP associations (like those of synesthesia) are automatically generated and interfere in Stroop-type tasks (Experiment 3). We argue that these shared characteristics suggest a unified underlying behavior, and propose OLP as a subtype of synesthesia. In so doing, our study extends the range of reported phenomena that are known to be susceptible to cross-modal association.
Grasping metaphors and thinking with pictures: How brain damage might affect thought and language. Poster presented at the 12th Annual Meeting of The Cognitive Neuroscience Society
  • V S Ramachandran
  • S Azoulai
  • L Stone
  • A V Svinivasan
  • N Bijou
Ramachandran, V.S, Azoulai, S., Stone, L., Svinivasan, A.V., Bijou, N. (2005). Grasping metaphors and thinking with pictures: How brain damage might affect thought and language. Poster presented at the 12th Annual Meeting of The Cognitive Neuroscience Society, New York.
Cross modality and language evolution. Language evolution and computation research unit
  • References Cuskley
  • C Simner
  • J Kitby
References Cuskley C., Simner, J. and Kitby, S. Cross modality and language evolution. Language evolution and computation research unit. University of Edinburgh.
Is synaesthesia actually ideaesthesia? An inquiry into the nature of the phenomenon
  • D Nikolic
Nikolic, D. (2009). Is synaesthesia actually ideaesthesia? An inquiry into the nature of the phenomenon. Proceedings of the third International Congress on Synaesthesia, Science and Art, Granada, Spain, April 26-29, 2009.