Kiki or Bouba: What Is the Shape of Your Taste?

There’s more to taste than just placing a dab of something on the tongue. Even the sound of the food name and the shape of the plate it’s served on affect the taste of what we eat.

Our experience of food, some researchers hypothesize, may involve a form of synesthesia, a rare neurological condition in which certain senses seem to be cross-wired. True synesthetics may see musical notes or letters of the alphabet as colors, or associate tastes or sounds with shapes. Author and synesthetic Vladimir Nabokov, for example, heard letter sounds as colors: n was oatmeal; k, huckleberry; and s a mix of azure and mother-of-pearl. Composer Nikolai Rimski-Korsakov heard musical notes in color; and the subject of Richard Cytowic’s

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