Bouba, Kiki & Assorted Ramblings

I can’t remember how I came across it, but I was recently reading about synesthesia. It’s difficult to put into my own words, so I’ll use a stolen (borrowed?) explanation: “Synesthesia is a neurological condition in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway. People who report such experiences are known as synesthetes.”

I continued on, because I really wasn’t sure what to make of all those words strung together. In simple-speak, some people perceive letters or numbers as a certain color, while others see numbers, days of the week and months as having personalities. There are many other types (check ’em out — it’s a good read), but I ended up coming across an area of study that’s linked to synesthesia.

The Bouba/Kiki Effect takes two shapes — one a pointy-tipped starburst sort of shape, and the other being a glob-like, one-dimensional gooey mess — and has people choose which shape would be named Bouba and which would be named Kiki.

Try it.

Between Bouba and Kiki, which name would you assign to the pointy-tipped starburst?

And which would you assign to the glob-like shape?

95% to 98% of people chose Kiki as the name for the pointy, angular shape, while a similar percentage chose the name Bouba for the rounded, gooey, bulbous shape. Even children as young as two and a half years old showed a similar naming preference. More stolen words which fascinated me: “Such synesthesia-like mappings suggest that this effect might be the neurological basis for sound symbolism (the idea that vocal sounds have meaning), in which sounds are non-arbitrarily mapped to objects and actions in the world.”

Neat, right?

I guess my only point here is that this while on the surface this concept seems delightfully strange, it reminds us on the most simple level that we’re not all as different as we think we are. It’s as simple as being startled if you heard a scream, or backing up if you saw an animal part its ears and arch its back as you approached. Some things just make sense, and while we common folk may not be able to put our fingers on exactly why that is, we know it when we see it — or when we feel it.

Which then makes me think of that gut feeling we get from time to time, a.k.a. the hunch, a.k.a. suspicion.

The notion that something isn’t adding up, that something is adding up, that something’s about to happen or that nothing will happen.

Ever had that feeling? And have you been surprised — or perhaps not surprised at all — when you’ve been right?

Those are the super cool, really interesting things about simply living, being, observing and listening that fascinate me to no end. Tonight I am thankful for them — for the wiring in our brains that sometimes puts us on the same wavelength as someone else without even saying a word, and for something that tells us to slow down when we’re tensing up while driving, but without knowing why…and then we realize that we’ve narrowly avoided being in an accident, or causing one.

There’s a little voice inside all of us, and maybe yours is trying to be heard. Maybe you’ve been pressing pause on whatever it is that it’s trying to tell you. Or maybe you’ve listened to it and found new peace, new contentment or a new angle of looking at something else — all in the process of simply listening. Don’t confuse your internal voice with the voices of others — ours is the one that’s most dialed in, and the one that’s most ready to be heard. It could hold the key to new possibilities, paths, relationships or to simply unlocking a bit of truth that can help you sleep easier at night.

And I am thankful for it.

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