Exploring a social “bouba-kiki” effect and the affective consequences of having a congruent versus incongruent name
This thesis was inspired from studies on the “bouba-kiki” effect, which shows that a sound-symbolic relationship exists between names and the physical objects they represent. Research on the bouba-kiki effect has found that people are more likely to associate names to objects which have a more congruent sound-symbolic relationship. This thesis has three main research questions; (1) is there a bouba-kiki effect between people’s names and their faces? (2) Are there any affective consequences for having a congruent versus incongruent name? (3) Are there real-world consequences of the social bouba-kiki effect?To answer the first research question, two studies (Study 1a and 1b: Chapter 3) were conducted to explore a social bouba-kiki effect. Initially a sample of caricatures were used as stimuli which was followed by a sample of real faces. In both cases participants were asked to name faces from a selection of sound symbolic (i.e. congruent) and non-sound symbolic (incongruent) names. The results clearly showed that congruent names were preferred to incongruent names: participants believed that “round” names (names which contained mostly round vowels /o/ and /u/, as in the names “Bob” and “Ron”) were more suitable for people with round faces, and “spiky” names (names which contained mostly unrounded vowels /i/ and /e/, like in the names “Rick” or “Mike”) for people with angular faces. To answer the second research question several studies were conducted to examine the affective consequences between a congruent and incongruent name-face relationship. Studies 2a and 2b (Chapter 4) demonstrated that congruently named people were rated more positively on liking and other social dimensions compared to incongruently named people. Studies 3 and 4 (Chapter 5) showed that participants increased their liking for people after learning that they had congruent versus incongruent names, while Studies 5-7 (Chapter 6) showed the reverse, that people were more likely to be assigned congruent names when they were likeable versus unlikeable. Finally, the third part of the thesis, (study 8: Chapter 7) explored whether the findings could be applied to real world settings. A sample of politicians was used to examine the impact each candidate’s level of name-face congruency had on their vote-share. Results showed that politicians with congruent names won their elections by significantly larger margins than those with incongruent names, although the effect was limited to extreme cases of (in)congruency.Taken together, the studies from this thesis support the hypothesis of a social bouba- kiki effect: how people name faces is not necessarily arbitrary. Furthermore, there are ramifications to having a congruent versus an incongruent name: name-face congruency has an affective component of increasing positivity. What is more, the effect can be detected in the environment, albeit in more extreme samples, where people who have good name-face congruency experience better outcomes than those with poor name-face congruency.
Advisor: Halberstadt, Jamin
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: Psychology
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: social; bouba; kiki; names; first-names; social bouba-kiki effect; bouba-kiki; congruent-names; congruency; name-congruency; non-arbitrary naming
Research Type: Thesis