The colors of the alphabet: Naturally-biased associations between shape and color.
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Many letters of the alphabet are consistently mapped to specific colors in English-speaking adults, both in the general population and in individuals with grapheme-color synaesthesia who perceive letters in color. Here, across six experiments, we tested the ubiquity of the color/letter associations with typically developing toddlers, literate children, and adults. We found that pre-literate children associate O with white and X with black and discovered that they also associate I and ameboid nonsense shapes with white; Z and jagged nonsense shapes with black; and C with yellow; but do not make a number of other associations (B blue; Y yellow; A red; G green) seen in literate children and adults. The toddlers' mappings were based on the shape and not the sound of the letter. The results suggest that sensory cortical organization initially binds specific colors to some specific shapes and that learning to read can induce additional associations, likely through the influence of higher order networks as letters take on meaning.
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