Sounds and Shapes (02-07-17)

A team lead by Hung confirmed that particular sorts of sounds are linked to certain shapes; their work is useful to people naming products and places, for example.  The research by Hung, Styles, and Hsieh, published in Psychological Science, indicates that  “Our tendency to match specific sounds with specific shapes, even abstract shapes, is so fundamental that it guides perception before we are consciously aware of it. . . . The ‘bouba-kiki’ effect, originally reported over 85 years ago and replicated many times since, shows that people consistently pair the soft-sounding nonsense word ‘bouba’ with soft-looking, round shapes and they typically pair the sharp-sounding nonsense word ‘kiki’ with spiky-looking, angular shapes. This effect seems to emerge across cultures and age groups.”  A press release issued as the Hung/Styles/Hsieh study was published quotes author Shao-Min Hung of Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore as stating that “The findings here show that once we have learned the sound of a letter, we are able to . . . map this unconsciously extracted sound to an unconscious shape.’”  

“Words Can Sound ‘Round’ or ‘Sharp’ Without Us Realizing It.”   2017. Press release, Association for Psychological Science,