Assessing the shapes and speech sounds that consumers associate with different kinds of chocolate
Ngo MK., Spence C.
Reliable crossmodal correspondences have been demonstrated between dark and mint chocolates with angular shapes and sharper-sounding speech sounds on one hand, and between milk chocolate with organic shapes and rounder-sounding speech sounds on the other. In the present study, a panel of consumers was presented with four different chocolates: two mints (solid and fondant), one dark and one milk. They either tasted (Experiment 1) or simply imagined tasting (Experiment 2) the chocolates and indicated whether the perceived flavor matched one or other of the items (nonsense words or simple outline shapes) anchoring various line scales by marking a point along each scale. Dark and solid mint chocolates were more angular-shaped and associated with sharp meaningless speech sounds (e.g., "tuki" and "takete"). Mint fondant, by contrast, was considered less angular and more pleasant than dark or solid mints, while milk chocolate was more pleasant and strongly associated with organic shapes and rounded speech sounds (e.g., "lula" and "maluma"). These results corroborate and build upon recent findings concerning sound symbolism in the taste and flavor domain by highlighting the fact that oral-somatosensory textural cues play an important role in determining the crossmodal correspondences that regular consumers have for foodstuffs such as chocolate. PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS: Whether taste or texture, or some combination of the two sensory attributes, is responsible for the systematic associations between various chocolates and certain angular/sharp or organic shapes and speech sounds remains unclear. The results of the present study demonstrate that both attributes play an important role in determining consumers' crossmodal correspondences. Thus, when conducting research on various food qualities, these two factors should be carefully considered and/or systematically controlled. Additionally, the fact that these results held across different testing protocols (laboratory-based vs. online) confirms the potential utility of internet-based food testing for quantitatively and, importantly, qualitatively valuable/sound data collection (at least for foods that consumers are familiar with). The results of experiments such as those reported here can, in the future, be used to provide insights regarding the speech sounds and abstract imagery that should be associated with specific oral-somatosensory and taste/flavor attributes in commercial food products. Such results may be used to develop abstract imagery for product packaging and/or brand names/logos that more effectively capture the shape/sound symbolic properties of the food concerned. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.