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Aurore Zelazny, Thomas Alrik Sørensen; Shape-color associations across cultures. Journal of Vision 2020;20(11):678. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/jov.20.11.678.
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Kandinsky (1912), proposed fundamental links between shapes and colors; circles are associated with blue, triangles with yellow, and squares with red. A century later, these associations were experimentally tested, pointing out different association tendencies compared to the original suggestion by Kandinsky; circles being yellow, triangles red, and squares blue (Jacobsen, 2002). Furthermore, Kandinsky’s original shape-color associations do not yield any priming effect (Kharkhurin, 2012), further weakening the original claim. Widening the range of possible color responses from 3 to 40 colors, Albertazzi et al. (2012), found significant tendencies in which colors people tend to associate to particular shapes. The circle tends to be associated with red and yellow, the triangle with yellow, and the square with both red and blue. In two follow-up studies Chen and colleagues (2015, 2017) demonstrate similar tendencies in groups of Japanese observers (i.e. circles tend to be red, triangles are yellow, and squares are blue). We believe that some of the differences between studies may very well be due to different cultural backgrounds. Indeed, Jacobsen (2002), Kharkhurin (2012), Albertazzi et al. (2012) and Chen et al. (2015, 2017) respectively tested German, American, Italian, and Japanese participants. Also, these studies limit color responses to 3 or 40 color chips, which may influence the possible reports of shape-color preferences. Jacobsen (2002) suggested that environmental cues influence the shape-color associations (e.g. red from triangular warning sign, and yellow from the sun). Here we investigate these environmental/cultural differences for five basic shapes (circle, triangle, square, hexagon, and pentagon) using a full color wheel which allow observers free associations. In line with previous studies, preliminary results (N = 3500) reveal shape-color preferences for all shapes. Interestingly, specific shape-color distastes are also present. Both shape-color attraction and repulsion can unveil new underlying influences and mechanisms for shape-color associations.
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