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Full Access ‘Bouba’ and ‘Kiki’ in Namibia? A remote culture make similar shape–sound matches, but different shape–taste matches to westerners

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‘Bouba’ and ‘Kiki’ in Namibia? A remote culture make similar shape–sound matches, but different shape–taste matches to westerners

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Western participants consistently match certain shapes with particular speech sounds, tastes, and flavours. Here we demonstrate that the ‘Bouba–Kiki effect’, a well-known shape–sound symbolism effect commonly observed in Western participants, is also observable in the Himba of Northern Namibia, a remote population with little exposure to Western cultural and environmental influences, and who do not use a written language. However, in contrast to Westerners, the Himba did not map carbonation (in a sample of sparkling water) onto an angular (as opposed to a rounded) shape. Furthermore, they also tended to match less bitter (i.e., milk) chocolate samples to angular rather than rounded shapes; the opposite mapping to that shown by Westerners. Together, these results show that cultural–environmental as well as phylogenetic factors play a central role in shaping our repertoire of crossmodal correspondences.

Affiliations: 1: 1Goldsmiths, University of London, UK; 2: 2Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, Canada; 3: 3University of Oxford, UK

Western participants consistently match certain shapes with particular speech sounds, tastes, and flavours. Here we demonstrate that the ‘Bouba–Kiki effect’, a well-known shape–sound symbolism effect commonly observed in Western participants, is also observable in the Himba of Northern Namibia, a remote population with little exposure to Western cultural and environmental influences, and who do not use a written language. However, in contrast to Westerners, the Himba did not map carbonation (in a sample of sparkling water) onto an angular (as opposed to a rounded) shape. Furthermore, they also tended to match less bitter (i.e., milk) chocolate samples to angular rather than rounded shapes; the opposite mapping to that shown by Westerners. Together, these results show that cultural–environmental as well as phylogenetic factors play a central role in shaping our repertoire of crossmodal correspondences.

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/content/journals/10.1163/22134808-000s0089
2013-05-16
2016-12-08

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