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A round Bouba is easier to remember than a curved Kiki: Sound-symbolism can support associative memory

Sonier, R-P., Poirier, M. ORCID: 0000-0002-1169-6424, Guitard, D. & Saint-Aubin, J. (2020). A round Bouba is easier to remember than a curved Kiki: Sound-symbolism can support associative memory. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, 27(4), pp. 776-782. doi: 10.3758/s13423-020-01733-8


Past research has shown that prior knowledge can support our episodic memory for recently encountered associations. According to the model proposed by Cox and Criss (2018) and Cox and Shiffrin (2017), any features shared by associated items should facilitate encoding and retrieval. We implemented a strict test of this prediction by taking advantage of sound-symbolism associations; here, the latter refer to relationships between phonemes and object characteristics—relationships that participants readily find natural—even if they have never encountered the items before. For instance, the non-word ‘maluma’ is much more readily seen to refer to a random shape with rounded contours than to a shape that has sharp angles. In our study, 70 participants completed paired-associate memory tests after studying lists of three pairs, each composed of a random shape and a non-word. As predicted, there was better associative memory performance for sound-shape pairs that could rely on sound-symbolism links.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This is a post-peer-review, pre-copyedit version of an article published in Psychonomic Bulletin & Review. The final authenticated version is available online at:
Publisher Keywords: Sound-symbolism, episodic memory, associative memory
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
SWORD Depositor:
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