Posted on 06/19/2014

Photo taken on June 19, 2014

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The Tell-tale Brain
V S Ramachandran
Psychology Dept & Neurosciences
University of California

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Photo replaced on June 19, 2014
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Bouba & Kiki

Bouba & Kiki
……. Look at the two shapes in Figure 3.7. The one on the left looks like a paint splat. The one on the right resembles a jagged piece of shattered glass. Now let me ask you, if you had to guess, which of these is “bouba” and which is a “kiki”? there is no right answer, but odds are you picked the splat as “bouba” and the glass as “kiki”. I tried this in a large classroom recently, and 98 percent of the students make this choice. Now you might think this has something to do with the blob resembling the physical form of the letter B (for “bouba”) and the jagged thing resembling a K (as in “kiki”). But if you try this experiment on non-English-speaking people in India or China, where the writing systems are completely different, you find exactly the same thing.

Why does this happen? The reason is that the gentle curves and undulations of contour on the amoeba-like figure metaphorically) one might say) mimic the gentle undulations of the sound ‘bouba,’ as represented in the hearing centers in the brain and in the smooth rounding and relaxing of the lips for producing the curved boo-baa sound. On the other hand, the shart wave forms of the sound kee-kee and the sharp inflection of the tongue on the palate mimic the sudden changes in the jagged visual shape. ….. Page108/109