[PS-3.64] Sound symbolism in guessing and learning: a recognition/production divide?

Styles, S. J.

Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

For two contrastive shapes (e.g., curvy, spiky) and two contrastive labels (e.g., 'bouba', 'kiki'), the majority of people agree which labels 'go best' with which items. Sound symbolism may therefore build on universal multi-sensory processing (c.f., Ramachandran & Hubbard, 2001, Spence, 2011), and may provide critical bootstraping for the acquisition of language (c.f. Imai & Kita, 2014). To test whether sound symbolism conveys a learning advantage for adults in an ecologically valid setting, we enrolled undergraduates in a mock-Virology course. 16 Viruses were constructed to control for label-shape congruence, label-symptom congruence, and symptom-shape congruence. After watching a 20 minute 'revision' video, students took a multiple choice 'exam'. Performance was significantly better for congruent than for incongruent items. However, in a second study, where participants studied virus names in a guess-and-check paradigm, followed by a naming task ('type the name of the virus'), guessing was significantly enhanced by sound symbolism, but accuracy at the recall phase was not. We argue that in massed learning paradigms (i.e., cramming), sound symbolism is more effective as an aide-memoire for recognition from a small array of options, than for accurately consolidation of an item's label for production.