Can a Word Sound Like a Shape Before You Have Seen It? Sound-Shape Mapping Prior to Conscious Awareness

Shao Min Hung, Suzy J. Styles, Po Jang Hsieh*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Nonarbitrary mappings between sound and shape (i.e., the bouba-kiki effect) have been shown across different cultures and early in development; however, the level of processing at which this effect arises remains unclear. Here we show that the mapping occurs prior to conscious awareness of the visual stimuli. Under continuous flash suppression, congruent stimuli (e.g., “kiki” inside an angular shape) broke through to conscious awareness faster than incongruent stimuli. This was true even when we trained people to pair unfamiliar letters with auditory word forms, a result showing that the effect was driven by the phonology, not the visual features, of the letters. Furthermore, visibility thresholds of the shapes decreased when they were preceded by a congruent auditory word form in a masking paradigm. Taken together, our results suggest that sound-shape mapping can occur automatically prior to conscious awareness of visual shapes, and that sensory congruence facilitates conscious awareness of a stimulus being present.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)263-275
Number of pages13
JournalPsychological Science
Volume28
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Mar 1
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • automaticity
  • bouba-kiki effect
  • consciousness
  • sound-shape mapping

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

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