The semantic basis of taste-shape associations.
Velasco C., Woods AT., Marks LE., Cheok AD., Spence C.
Previous research shows that people systematically match tastes with shapes. Here, we assess the extent to which matched taste and shape stimuli share a common semantic space and whether semantically congruent versus incongruent taste/shape associations can influence the speed with which people respond to both shapes and taste words. In Experiment 1, semantic differentiation was used to assess the semantic space of both taste words and shapes. The results suggest a common semantic space containing two principal components (seemingly, intensity and hedonics) and two principal clusters, one including round shapes and the taste word "sweet," and the other including angular shapes and the taste words "salty," "sour," and "bitter." The former cluster appears more positively-valenced whilst less potent than the latter. In Experiment 2, two speeded classification tasks assessed whether congruent versus incongruent mappings of stimuli and responses (e.g., sweet with round versus sweet with angular) would influence the speed of participants' responding, to both shapes and taste words. The results revealed an overall effect of congruence with congruent trials yielding faster responses than their incongruent counterparts. These results are consistent with previous evidence suggesting a close relation (or crossmodal correspondence) between tastes and shape curvature that may derive from common semantic coding, perhaps along the intensity and hedonic dimensions.