Smelling shapes: crossmodal correspondences between odors and shapes.
Hanson-Vaux G., Crisinel AS., Spence C.
Crossmodal correspondences between odors and visual stimuli-particularly colors-are well-established in the literature, but there is a paucity of research involving visual shape correspondences. Crossmodal associations between 20 odors (a selection of those commonly found in wine) and visual shape stimuli ("kiki"/"bouba" forms-Köhler W. 1929. Gestalt psychology. New York: Liveright.) were investigated in a sample of 25 participants (mean age of 21 years). The odors were rated along a form scale anchored by 2 shapes, as well as several descriptive adjective scales. Two of the odors were found to be significantly associated with an angular shape (lemon and pepper) and two others with a rounded shape (raspberry and vanilla). Principal component analysis indicated that the hedonic value and intensity of odors are important in this crossmodal association, with more unpleasant and intense smells associated with more angular forms. These results are discussed in terms of their practical applications, such as in the use of bottle, logo, or label shape by marketers of perfume and wine to convey the prominent notes through congruent odor-shape pairing. In conclusion, these results support the existence of widespread crossmodal associations (or correspondences) between odors and visual shape stimuli.