Are Lemons Fast Or Slow?

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Answer the question in your head before you click on this story. A majority of people have a specific opinion of lemon speed, and on a number of other so-called crossmodal matches.

If you think that lemons, the fruit and not the car, are fast, you are in agreement with about 65% of the population. Prunes, on the other hand, are considered slow by at least 80% of people responding to a survey. Boulders are sour, say nearly 80% of responders. The most overwhelming response in the survey has to be a comparison of yellow and red. Nearly 90% of people surveyed believed that red was heavier than yellow.

None of those responses are a correct answer. None of them have any intrinsic meaning at all. The significance of studies like this is that they show that, across cultures and age ranges, people form a consensus for, seemingly, no reason. This attachment between two unlike terms, often called crossmodal matches, should be arbitrary. A question like, "Which is heavier, red or yellow," should have a roughly 50/50 split when it comes to answers. At the very least, we should see significant variation from culture to culture. Why the consistency?


The most famous example of this is the Bouba-Kiki Effect . When given a choice between attaching the names Bouba and Kiki (or, alternately, Takete and Maluna) to a rounded object and a spiked object, the vast majority of people believed that the spiked object was the Kiki or the Takete, while the rounded one was the Maluna and the Bouba.


Likewise, when asked about the size of a bird called the Pipit, most people believed it was small, sight unseen. The "i" sound in Pipit, and the "k" and "t" in Kiki and Takete, seem to be associated, across cultures with a certain size and sharpness. Researchers thought it was merely a phonetic effect. It seems, though, that we make all kinds of associations without knowing it, and we do so, at the very least, as a culture. What in our cultural background makes us think that lemons are faster than prunes? Or yellow and red have relative weights? Thoughts?

Top Image: William Warby.

[Via Fast Lemons and Sour Boulders, Fast Lemons and Intuitive Beliefs, This Explains Everything]