The Origin of Personality and Culture

The bouba/kiki effect is a non-arbitrary mapping system between speech sounds and visual shapes that we are biologically wired to do. If asked to name the objects below using the words bouba & kiki, the word kiki will most often be used to name the sharper object, and the word bouba used to name the softer object. It is because the sound kiki is sharper than the word bouba. Our subjective language is shaped by our objective environment.

If the implication of this connection between subject and object is unpacked across larger scales such as individual personalities and cultures, we can see how certain languages and customs would be sharper in tone as a result of the communication telegraphed through the social and objective environment by harsher climates. Ice ages and seasonal environments, or natural events such as volcanoes would communicate a certain perspective that would be different than a tropical island environment with steady access to food all year round and not as much need for shelter and so on. This objective communication by the environment would incline the subjective maps and behaviors developed by the people in that environmental womb to reflect that localized aspect of nature. We can see this type of bouba/kiki effect reflected linguistically (our subjective maps) as well as behaviorally (objective expressions) in our personalities and in our cultures and so on.

In other words; our identity to a large degree is based on patterns (echoes) of being repeatedly informed by, and responding to environmental cues. These cues define our form much like the rising sun would warm a rock, defining the properties of its form for a time. We are a collection of adaptive behaviors that were shaped by environmental factors over time which favored behaviors that were required to remain coherent in that context. (to survive) Harsher climates would have demanded harsher “kiki like” actions and words, and these traits would carry forward (perhaps past their shelf life) as acquired adaptations even if they became maladaptive in the context of a changing environment. This would have a self perpetuating effect, where harsh behaviors would craft a feedback loop of harsh behaviors, much like corn produces corn seeds, which produces corn and so on.

Understanding this concept may offer us the opportunity to strategically decide what to “plant” because although we cannot control every variable, our opportunity to participate in what will contribute to what we experience as our future depends in part on what behavioral seeds we cultivate.


One response to “The Origin of Personality and Culture

  1. Can you elaborate a little bit? I am not sure I understand your meaning.

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