" Bouba" and " Kiki" in Namibia? A remote culture make similar shape-sound matches, but different shape-taste matches to Westerners

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Serge Caparos
  • Jules Davidoff
  • Jan de Fockert
  • Karina J. Linnell
  • Charles Spence

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • Sensorimotor Development Research Unit
  • University of London
  • Department of Experimental Psychology


Western participants consistently match certain shapes with particular speech sounds, tastes, and flavours. Here we demonstrate that the " Bouba-Kiki effect", a well-known shape-sound symbolism effect commonly observed in Western participants, is also observable in the Himba of Northern Namibia, a remote population with little exposure to Western cultural and environmental influences, and who do not use a written language. However, in contrast to Westerners, the Himba did not map carbonation (in a sample of sparkling water) onto an angular (as opposed to a rounded) shape. Furthermore, they also tended to match less bitter (i.e., milk) chocolate samples to angular rather than rounded shapes; the opposite mapping to that shown by Westerners. Together, these results show that cultural-environmental as well as phylogenetic factors play a central role in shaping our repertoire of crossmodal correspondences.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)165-172
Number of pages8
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2013


  • Cross-cultural, Crossmodal correspondence, Flavour, Shape symbolism, Sound symbolism, Taste