One sees icons everywhere. Although the word in a ‘Stop’ sign is in English, the eight-sided shape of the sign is the universal language for ‘cease from moving forward’. Any foreign word could be placed on this octagonal template, and all (who have passed a driver’s test) would know the correct meaning.
What about the consequences of not stopping. Until I saw the pair of signs pictured below, I never knew there could be an icon for ‘Or Else’. The meanings one could ascribe to the bottom sign are limited. The most common interpretation is: ‘If you don’t stop you will crash into a car (if you’re on a bicycle) or a bicycle (if you are in a car).’ Alternatively, it could mean: ‘A bicycle and a car are stopped, waiting for an explosion in the middle of the intersection.’
In the latter case, the logical conclusion would be: if you don’t see a car (if you’re on a bicycle) or don’t see a bicycle (if you’re in a car), there will be no explosion. Conceivably, if the bicycle or car driver didn’t see another car or a bicycle driver at the other corner, he or she could feel safe that an explosion would not occur within the intersection. I would imagine someone holding this view would not be inclined to stop and wait for another vehicle to show up.
I assume that most people would hold the common interpretation of the bottom sign: the consequences of failing to stop.