Bouba Kiki Science Buddies Bibliography

I is an Other: The Secret Life of Metaphor and How it Shapes the Way We See the World3.85 · Rating details ·  523 Ratings  ·  84 Reviews

“Sherlock Holmes could glance at a bowler hat and tell that its owner's wife had ceased to love him. In this brilliant book about metaphor James Geary is no less astonishing, as he deciphers the subtle implications embedded in advertising slogans, familiar slang and government double-talk…. You'll scarf down every page of I Is an Other and then ask for more.” —Michael Dird“Sherlock Holmes could glance at a bowler hat and tell that its owner's wife had ceased to love him. In this brilliant book about metaphor James Geary is no less astonishing, as he deciphers the subtle implications embedded in advertising slogans, familiar slang and government double-talk…. You'll scarf down every page of I Is an Other and then ask for more.” —Michael Dirda, Pulitzer Prize-winning critic and author of Book by Book and Classics for Pleasure

For lovers of language and fans of Blink and Freakonomics, New York Times bestselling author James Geary offers this fascinating look at metaphors and their influence in every aspect of our lives, from art to medicine, psychology to the stock market.
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Kindle Edition, 320 pages

Published (first published January 20th 2011)

Difficulty
Time RequiredVery Short (≤ 1 day)
PrerequisitesNone
Material Availability Readily available
CostVery Low (under $20)
SafetyNo issues

Abstract

Have you ever wondered if some shapes have certain "sounds" to people, even if they have different native languages? For example, does everyone match certain physical characteristics, like sharpness or roundness, with certain sounds? Are there certain human sounds with meanings that can cross the language barrier? In this science project you will investigate this by testing the Bouba-Kiki Effect—will it turn out that abstract visual properties can be linked to sound?

Objective

Investigate whether people match certain symbolic characteristics, like sharpness and roundedness, with certain sounds.

Credits

Sara Agee, Ph.D., Science Buddies

Cite This Page

MLA Style

Science Buddies Staff. "The Bouba-Kiki Effect" Science Buddies. Science Buddies, 28 July 2017. Web. 10 Mar. 2018 <https://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project-ideas/HumBeh_p026/human-behavior/bouba-kiki-effect>

APA Style

Science Buddies Staff. (2017, July 28). The Bouba-Kiki Effect. Retrieved March 10, 2018 from https://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project-ideas/HumBeh_p026/human-behavior/bouba-kiki-effect



Last edit date: 2017-07-28

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Introduction

One of the most amazing things humans can do is use language to communicate. Humans have evolved the ability to use language over many thousands of years, resulting in many languages being spoken around the world today. How did our ability to use language evolve? Where did the first use of language come from?

One idea is that the first use of language represented sounds that became linked to concepts through usage. Eventually these meaningful sounds became more complex in structure and more diverse, creating more complex language. This idea brings with it a major question: Were the first sounds arbitrary and random, or were they consistently applied to certain concepts or symbols? You might think that since modern languages have different origins, that different random associations with sounds could be at the root of these differences. However, a psychological phenomenon called the Bouba-Kiki Effect shows a different possibility.

In the Bouba-Kiki Effect, people are shown a pointy picture or a curvy picture and asked to identify it as "Bouba" or "Kiki" even though those are both non-sense words. A surprising number of people, regardless of language, identify the rounded shape as "Bouba" and the pointy shape as "Kiki" even though they had not been told what the words might mean. Even very young children make the same identification most of the time. What does this mean? Is this evidence of a human predisposition to associating certain sounds with abstract shapes and concepts?


Figure 1. Most people, when asked, will say that the shape on the left is "Kiki" and that the shape on the right is "Bouba" even though they may not speak the same language and have not been told what the two words mean.

While the deeper meaning behind the Bouba-Kiki Effect is being debated in coffee shops at colleges and universities around the globe, you can turn it into a nifty science fair project. In this human behavior science project, you will make your own set of Bouba-Kiki flash cards and then test volunteers with your flash cards to see if you observe the Bouba-Kiki Effect. Will you see it, or will you have the results of a 50-50 random chance event?

Terms and Concepts

  • Languages
  • Symbolic thought
  • Bouba-Kiki Effect
  • Abstract shapes

Questions

  • What is the Bouba-Kiki Effect?
  • When languages first developed, do you think the first sounds were arbitrary and random, or do you think they were consistently applied to certain concepts? Why?
  • Do you think people might match other types of shapes with certain sounds consistently?

Bibliography

To find out more about the Bouba-Kiki Effect, visit the following websites:

  • Wikipedia contributors. (2012, November 25). Bouba/kiki effect. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved November 28, 2012, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Bouba/kiki_effect&oldid=524841450
  • The Fat Duck. (n.d.). Kiki Bouba: Play the Game. Retrieved November 28, 2012, from http://www.thefatduck.co.uk/Reservations/KikiBouba/
  • Lanier, J. (2007, February 26). Jaron's World: The Meaning of Metaphor. Discover Magazine. Retrieved November 28, 2012, from http://discovermagazine.com/2007/feb/jarons-world-metaphors-vocabulary

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