This series, co-organized by Laura Speed and Gunter Senft, takes place weekly on Thursdays. The colloquium series brings together speakers from within and outside of the university invited by members of the Meaning, Culture and Cognition group, the Languages in Contact group and the Language and Cognition group. For further information, please contact Laura Speed. All meetings begin at 3.45pm at the MPI.


30 MAR 2017

Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics

15.45 – 17.00 | MPI room 163

Perspective taking in context

When two people don’t share a language, they are often able to communicate successfully by creating signals such as spontaneous gestures. Even when they share a language but lack a conventional way to refer to a particular something, they can use old words in new ways to get their point across.

In all such cases, however, a signaler typically has several ways they could convey their meaning: they could signal ‘snake’ by imitating its hissing or by gesturing its winding motion. They could describe a bank as ‘where you go to deposit money’ or as ‘what Santander is’. Since some of these options might be more informative than others from the recipient’s perspective, the question is whether or not people are able to take their interlocutors’ perspective and generate an informative signal.

We present the results of a novel signaling task that focuses on the contribution of salience, shared world knowledge and contextual constraint, and conclude that (1) in general, people signal based on what is salient from their own perspective, not their interlocutors’ point of view, even though they share world knowledge, (2) contextual constraint can boost perspective taking, and (3) some people are better than others at taking perspective, but different cognitive mechanisms predict success in different contexts.

13 APR 2017

Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics 

15.45 – 17.00 | MPI room 163

18 APR 2017

CHARLES SPENCE  University of Oxford

15.45 – 17.00 | MPI room 163

Crossmodal correspondences: Looking for links between sound symbolism & synaesthesia & their application to multisensory marketing

“Are lemons fast or slow?”; “Is carbonated water round or angular?”; Most people agree on their answers to these questions. These are examples of correspondences, that is, the tendency for a feature, in one sensory modality, either physically present, or merely imagined, to be matched (or associated) with a feature, either physically present, or merely imagined, in another modality. Crossmodal correspondences appear to exist between all pairings of senses, and have been shown to affect everything from people’s speeded responses to their performance in unspeeded psychophysical tasks. While some correspondences are culture-specific (e.g., the correspondence between angularity and bitterness), others are likely to be universal (e.g., the correspondence between auditory pitch and visual or haptic size, for example). Intriguingly, some animals (e.g., chimpanzees), as well as young infants, appear to be sensitive to certain crossmodal correspondences. In this talk, I will discuss a number of the explanations that have been put forward to account for the existence of crossmodal correspondences. I will also examine the relationship between crossmodal correspondences and sound symbolism, and tackle the thorny question of whether crossmodal correspondences should be thought of as a kind of synaesthesia that is common to us all. Finally, I will highlight some of the latest marketing applications that are now emerging from basic research on crossmodal correspondences in the design of everything from beverage labels through to the music you listen to while drinking your coffee (or cognac), and the dishes that are starting to appear at modernist restaurants.

Spence, C. (2011). Crossmodal correspondences: A tutorial review. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 73, 971-995.

Spence, C. (2012). Managing sensory expectations concerning products and brands: Capitalizing on the potential of sound and shape symbolism. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 22, 37-54.

Spence, C. (2012). Synaesthetic marketing: Cross sensory selling that exploits unusual neural cues is finally coming of age. The Wired World in 2013, November, 104-107.

11 MAY 2017

Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics

15.45 – 17.00 | MPI room 163

18 MAY 2017

Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics

15.45 – 17.00 | MPI room 163