The In-Out Effect in the Perception and Production of Real Words

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The in-out effect refers to the tendency that novel words whose consonants follow an inward-wandering pattern (e.g., P-T-K) are rated more positively than stimuli whose consonants follow an outward-wandering pattern (e.g., K-T-P). While this effect appears to be reliable, it is not yet clear to what extent it generalizes to existing words in a language. In two large-scale studies, we sought to extend the in-out effect from pseudowords to real words and from perception to production. In Study 1, we investigated whether previously collected affective ratings for English and Dutch words were more positive for inward-wandering words and more negative for outward-wandering words. No systematic relationship between wandering direction and affective valence was found. In Study 2, we investigated whether inward-wandering words are more likely to occur in positive online consumer restaurant reviews written in English and Dutch, compared to negative reviews, and whether this association was stronger for food ratings than for decor ratings. Again, no systematic relationship between wandering direction and review rating emerged. We suggest that the affective states triggered by different consonantal wandering directions might be used as a cue for forming judgments in the absence of other information, but that wandering direction is too low in salience to drive the shape of words in the lexicon.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13193
Number of pages21
JournalCognitive Science
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Affect
  • Articulation
  • Iconicity
  • Language
  • Online reviews
  • Word norms


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