From the Bob/Kirk effect to the Benoit/Éric effect: Testing the mechanism of name sound symbolism in two languages
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Although it is often assumed that language involves an arbitrary relationship between form and meaning, many studies have demonstrated that nonwords like maluma are associated with round shapes, while nonwords like takete are associated with sharp shapes (i.e., the Maluma/Takete effect, Köhler, 1929/1947). The majority of the research on sound symbolism has used nonwords, but Sidhu and Pexman (2015) recently extended this effect to existing labels: real English first names (i.e., the Bob/Kirk effect). In the present research we tested whether the effects of name sound symbolism generalize to French speakers (Experiment 1) and French names (Experiment 2). In addition, we assessed the underlying mechanism of name sound symbolism, investigating the roles of phonology and orthography in the effect. Results showed that name sound symbolism does generalize to French speakers and French names. Further, this robust effect remained the same when names were presented in a curved vs. angular font (Experiment 3), or when the salience of orthographic information was reduced through auditory presentation (Experiment 4). Together these results suggest that the Bob/Kirk effect is pervasive, and that it is based on fundamental features of name phonemes.
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