A social Bouba/Kiki effect: A bias for people whose names match their faces

Brief Report


The “bouba/kiki effect” is the robust tendency to associate rounded objects (vs. angular objects) with names that require rounding of the mouth to pronounce, and may reflect synesthesia-like mapping across perceptual modalities. Here we show for the first time a “social” bouba/kiki effect, such that experimental participants associate round names (“Bob,” “Lou”) with round-faced (vs. angular-faced) individuals. Moreover, consistent with a bias for expectancy-consistent information, we find that participants like targets with “matching” names, both when name-face fit is measured and when it is experimentally manipulated. Finally, we show that such bias could have important practical consequences: An analysis of voting data reveals that Senatorial candidates earn 10% more votes when their names fit their faces very well, versus very poorly. These and similar cross-modal congruencies suggest that social judgment involves not only amodal application of stored information (e.g., stereotypes) to new stimuli, but also integration of perceptual and bodily input.


Social cognition Social perception Face perception Attitudes 


Author contributions

Both authors were involved in the design of the studies. D.B collected the data, and J.H. led the analyses of the data. The authors jointly wrote the manuscript.

Supplementary material

13423_2017_1304_MOESM1_ESM.docx (87 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 87 kb)


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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of OtagoDunedinNew Zealand

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