Sound symbolism overrides articulation dynamics in the taste continuum

Abhishek Pathak (Lead / Corresponding author), Gemma A. Calvert, Kosuke Motoki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
89 Downloads (Pure)


A number of studies have now examined the in/out effect, whereby “inwards” spoken words imitating an inwards articulatory motion (akin to the swallowing motion) are typically rated higher on dimensions of edibility, palatability, likeability, approach and willingness to pay. The reverse is true of so-called “outwards” words mimicking oral expulsive motion. This effect, though robust and replicable, fails to take into account other well-known sound symbolic associations, which have also been shown to affect the perceived meaning of words, especially in the taste dimension. If outwards (vs. inwards) words are perceived as less palatable and less likeable, the in/out effect would suggest they would lead to expectations of an unpleasant taste. However, taking our cue from the sound symbolism theory, we provide evidence to the contrary. Specifically, we show that phonemic sounds (soft or harsh) contained within these words can override the in/out effect. Across two studies, we found that words with an outwards (vs. inwards) pattern were in fact rated as sweet (vs. bitter) and round (vs. angular) based on the nature of the embedded phones. We also demonstrate that the results significantly differ when the number of phonetic sounds (soft vs. harsh) are varied within the same category of words. Together, our results demonstrate that sound symbolism overrides the in/out effect in sound-taste and sound-shape associations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104186
Number of pages8
JournalFood Quality and Preference
Early online date23 Jan 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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