Shape-to-color associations in non-synesthetes: perceptual, emotional, and cognitive aspects

Malfatti, Michela (2014) Shape-to-color associations in non-synesthetes: perceptual, emotional, and cognitive aspects. PhD thesis, University of Trento.

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The study of cross-modal and cross-dimensional associations in non-synesthetes has become an increasingly hot topic in recent times (see Spence, 2011, for a review). Despite the many examples of associations between shape/color-stimuli on one hand and stimuli of different sensory nature on the other hand, little is known about the way shape and color are interrelated with each other. The purpose of our research was to test whether non-synesthetes also exhibit systematic associations between these two different dimensions of the visual domain, that is, shape and color. Furthermore, our study also relates to art, and in particular to Kandinsky’s theory on shape-color correspondences (1912, 1926), which could be tested indirectly. The project consisted of six experiments, some of them (Experiments 1-3 and 6) carried out in the Experimental Psychology Labs at the University of Trento under the supervision of Prof. Liliana Albertazzi, and the others (Experiments 4-5) carried out in the Visual Perception and Aesthetics Lab at the University of California Berkeley, under the supervision of Prof. Stephen E. Palmer. Experiment 1 provided the first evidence that people tend to match certain hues to certain simple geometric shapes. The strongest relations were found between the triangle and yellows, and the circle and square with reds, confirming only in part Kandinsky’s artistic findings. Experiment 2 replicated the results of Experiment 1 with a different group of participants and showed that the pattern of shape-color associations that previously emerged was independent of a shape’s size, area/perimeter, and stability. Experiment 3 examined the relation between parts of shapes (angles) and hues, also in order to assess if the choice of a hue to be matched with a given shape could be partly driven by its angles. In the remaining experiments (4-5), we extended the previous studies to color dimensions other than the hue, and to an even wider variety of shapes and shape-features. The shape-features studied included pointedness, intersections, symmetry-axes, concavities, and the number of generating-points. We found that specific shape-features of line-shapes (Experiment 4) or closed geometric shapes (Experiment 5) influence specific color attributes (saturation, lightness, redness/greenness, and yellowness/blueness) of the associated colors. Our results also suggested that shape-color associations may be mediated, in part, by emotions; indeed people tend to match colors and shapes that have similar emotional associations (e.g., angry colors are matched to angry shapes). Finally, Experiment 6 assessed in an exploratory way the association between words related to abstract concepts and hues. Altogether, additional examples of associations in the non-synesthetic population were reported. We suggest that this new trend of research, at large, could improve the study of human perception and cognition, guide the search for neural correlates, as well as find possible applications in a variety of disciplines, including ergonomics, art, and design.

Item Type:Doctoral Thesis (PhD)
Doctoral School:Cognitive and Brain Sciences
PhD Cycle:27
Subjects:Area 11 - Scienze storiche, filosofiche, pedagogiche e psicologiche > M-PSI/01 PSICOLOGIA GENERALE
Repository Staff approval on:19 Nov 2014 11:29

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