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The Kiki-Bouba Effect A Case of Personification and Ideaesthesia

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The Kiki-Bouba effect comprises a relation between two abstract figures and two non-words: the star-shaped figure is called 'Kiki' and the rounded figure 'Bouba'. The effect is explained by a sound-vision synaesthesia: certain sounds are associated with certain shapes in a non-arbitrary manner.When we asked the participants to decide which of the two figures, the star-shaped or the rounded one, to call yin and which yang, some 85% choose the star-shaped figure as yin. There are previous cases of synaesthesia where personality is attributed to numbers or letters. In our results, the word Kiki is overall happy, clever, small, thin, young, unpleasant, and nervous. The starshaped figure is overall clever, tall, small, slim, nervous, unpleasant, and upper-class. That is, the correspondence above all concerns the qualifying adjectives clever, unpleasant, and nervous, as well as the physical appearance small and thin. This brings us to the fat-thin effect. Cinema, literature, comics, and children's programmes are full of contrasting figures: Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, Laurel and Hardy (called the fat man and the skinny man in Spain), Asterix and Obelix, Tintin and Captain Haddock, Bert and Ernie (Epi and Blas in Spanish), or the Spanish comic about very naughty twin boys called Zipi (with fair hair) and Zape (with dark hair). Our main conclusion is that first names and last names are not entirely arbitrary. There is a correspondence between (rounded vs. angular) names and physical characteristics (fat vs. thin objects or persons) and concepts (foolish vs. intelligent, nice vs. unpleasant). The Kiki-Bouba effect is a semantic one.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Departamento de PsicologĂ­a Experimental, Universidad de Granada, C/ Campus de Cartuja s/n, 18071, Granada, Spain, Email: [email protected]

Publication date: January 1, 2013

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