Assessing the shapes and speech sounds that people associate with chocolate samples varying in cocoa content
Ngo MK., Misra R., Spence C.
We report a series of three experiments designed to highlight the reliable crossmodal correspondences that exist between the cocoa content of various commercially-available chocolate products and both visually-presented shapes and nonsense words. The chocolates tested in this study included three kinds of Lindt chocolate and a milk chocolate truffle ('Koko' brand from Cadbury). Participants were given paper-based line scales, anchored at either end with either a nonsense word or simple outline shape. They tasted the chocolates and indicated whether their perception of the flavor better matched one or other of the items anchoring the scales by marking the appropriate point along the scale. The results demonstrate that certain chocolates were more strongly associated with angular shapes and 'sharp' inflected, high-pitched meaningless words, such as 'tuki' and 'takete'. Specifically, Lindt extra creamy milk chocolate (30% cocoa) and Cadbury's Koko milk chocolate truffles were both more strongly associated with rounded shapes and softer sounding, lower-pitched pseudo-words, such as 'maluma'. By contrast, Lindt 70% and 90% cocoa chocolates were more strongly associated with sharper (angular) shapes and sounds, such as 'takete'. These results demonstrate that the phenomenon of sound symbolism extends beyond the visual modality into the domain of flavor perception where, in particular, speech sounds carry meaning in terms of the taste/flavor of chocolates. These results have implications for the development of novel brand names for new products (such as, in this case, chocolate) that best connote the product's likely sensory attributes. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.