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Michael McBeath, R. Chandler Krynen, K. Jacob Patten, Seth Gory; Weems vs Wums: Random Shapes with Distinct Edges and Fast Motion are More Often Classified as "Weems", and One's that are Blurry and Slow as "Wums". Journal of Vision 2018;18(10):1141. doi: 10.1167/18.10.1141.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Introduction: The Bouba-Kiki Effect is that observers favor assigning the nonsense-words "bouba" to rounded-edged random-shapes and "kiki" to jagged-edged random-shapes. This correlation is typically cited as evidence for synesthesia-type connections between consonant phonetic attack sounds and visual shape contours. Our study examines if vowel phonetic characteristics are also coupled to other visual object features. We hypothesized that nonsense-words with vowel phonemes associated with higher pitch-height will be assigned to visual shapes that have distinct edges and move rapidly, and conversely, those with vowel phonemes associated with lower pitch-height will be assigned to shapes that have blurry edges and move slowly. Methods: 51 participants observed pairs of random visual-shapes along with pairs of nonsense-words that were also verbally spoken, and judged which nonsense-word best matched each shape. Each nonsense-word pair had the same beginning and ending consonant phonemes, only differing in the vowel portion being either a high pitch-height i: sound (as in "weem"), or a low ^ sound (as in "wum"). Results: The findings confirm our hypothesis that i: nonsense-words (like "weem") are more likely to be assigned to random-shapes that have distinct-edges and move rapidly, and ^ nonsense-words (like "wum") are assigned to random-shapes that have blurry edges and move slowly (z values varied between 2.0 and 5.9). We also replicated the Bouba-Kiki Effect, and failed to find a relationship between phonemes and control visual features such as height-in-the-plane, which provides some evidence against demand characteristics. Conclusions: We replicated and extended the Bouba-Kiki Effect with findings supporting that the vowel phoneme dimension of pitch-height is associated with visual shape characteristics of edge distinctiveness and motion speed. "Weems" are more distinct and fast, while "wums" are more blurry and slow. These findings are consistent with a multisensory mapping based on functional natural patterns of acoustics, visual shape, and motion speed.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2018
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