It’s common to think of our senses as separate. Sight is sight, we can clearly differentiate it from sound.
It turns out our senses like to communicate and influence each other. Our conscious experience is a group effort that is oddly difficult to dissect.
Sarah Hyndman is a designer examining the intersection between fonts and psychology, and author of the book Why Fonts Matter. She has come across some interesting findings.
For example, did you know that different fonts can alter the taste of jelly beans? Take a look at these fonts:
When 100 people were given jelly beans, people rated them as being 17% sweeter if displayed using the font on the left, and 11% more sour if they were presented using the font on the right. For the record, they were identical jelly beans.
She also surveyed 54 people to try and identify how fonts relate to types of coffee. Here were the results (images taken directly from her site):
Hyndman also asked female participants to rate which typeface they’d most like to date… you read that correctly.
Franklin Gothic swept 20 percent of women off their feet, clearly out-wooing the other 8 fonts.
We are all rather adept at transferring meaning from one thing to another, we spend a great deal of time doing this ourselves through metaphor — as James Geary notes in ‘I Is An Other,’ metaphors occur in speech every 10 to 25 words, or roughly 6 times per minute. However, this is clearly going a little too far, right?
Here’s a question that psychologist and expert in multi-sensory experiences Charles Spence asks a writer from Wired:
Are lemons fast or slow?
To which the answer is?… most people say fast. That answer, for one reason or another, seems intuitive, and yet, ridiculous. Spence has also found that prunes are slow, boulders are sour, and red is heavier than yellow.
Spence has also researched a phenomena he calls ‘sonic seasoning.’ He found that by simply making the crunching sound of a potato chip louder, people would rate it as tastier.
Music, too, can alter the way your food tastes. He has identified that high-pitched piano notes are sweet, while low-pitched brass notes are bitter.
You could make a dish appear up to 10 per cent sweeter or more salty through sounds, which could be big enough to have a health impact. You can prime the brain for sweetness by playing a high-pitched sound. Tempos and instruments do seem to matter. Simply by changing the environment, it can have a big impact on flavour.
Music, flavors and fonts, oh my. But, much to my delight, that’s not even the half of it.
Challenge: You have two names — Kiki and Bouba — you must give each of these shapes one of those names:
The sharp sound of ‘kiki’ made you want to pair it with the sharp edges of the first shape, right? This effect was found way back in 1929 by Wolfgang Köhler.
Psychologists have also started studying something called embodied cognition — the main idea is that your brain does not only direct your body, in fact, the opposite also happens. There are some awesome findings here:
We all know that when we’re happy, we smile. But did you know that smiling will make you happy? Yip. Frowning will make you sad, crossing your arms will make you more defensive. When you do something because you feel something, doing that something will make you feel that something.
There’s more: Holding a warm cup of coffee makes you more generous. Sitting in a hard chair makes you less willing to compromise. And holding a heavy clipboard causes people to take their job more seriously.
This world that you get presented by all your senses, it only appears as though it’s nicely in order. We don’t really have a clue as to what’s going on behind the curtains. Your taste buds are getting together with your ears and eyes and they’re all deciding for themselves what they’ll show you.
To put the final nail in the coffin, did you know that when you’re talking to someone, it’s not only the sound that influences what you hear? Check this out: