"Bouba" and "Kiki" in Namibia? A remote culture make similar shape-sound matches, but different shape-taste matches to Westerners.
Bremner AJ., Caparos S., Davidoff J., de Fockert J., Linnell KJ., Spence C.
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.