Monthly Archives: May 2011

A very brief comment on my fine motor task -> visual place memory synaesthesia

The last time that I did a heap of hand-washing in the laundry wash-trough, when I was swooshing dirty water down the drain of the trough that is poorly designed and doesn’t drain quickly I noticed that I very fleetingly “saw” in my mind’s eye scenes of a number of different places from my past, and they weren’t the places that I’ve previously noted have been evoked by this particular fine-motor task. It appears that the brain connections between learned hand movements and visual memories of scenes are more changeable or more random than in other types of synaesthesia that I also experience, like coloured letters (grapheme->colour synaesthesia). I think the interesting thing is that I do “see” visions of scenes when I do household chores with my hands. Why does this happen?

Report on my fine motor task -> visual place memory synaesthesia

Some very interesting comments!

Invitation for comments

Anwar Ibrahim and that tape – not him in my opinion

I’ve just had a look at excerpts of the sex tape that has been claimed to show the unfortunate Malaysian politician Anwar Ibrahim in an inappropriate situation. I do not believe it is Mr Ibrahim in that tape. I do not base my opinion on a lack of facial resemblance, because the bits of the tape that I saw, repeated a few times over, on an Australian news TV show were poor images that did not show the face well. I base my opinion that the man in the tape is not Ibrahim on the appearance of the man’s body, which seems considerably more fat than Ibrahim. The man in the tape has gynecomastia, an embarassing condition commonly known as “man boobs”, which I doubt Ibrahim has. It would be the easiest thing in the world to check this, if Ibrahim wanted to subject himself to such scrutiny. I also believe that the shape of the man in the tape’s head is a different shape than Ibrahim’s, appearing flatter at the top of the rear of the head than the politician’s head. What a horrible thing these allegations are.

Additions to my post about my lexical-gustatory synaesthesia

I have added a few more observations to my post about my lexical-gustatory synesthesia. I keep noticing more examples of this phenomenon. I often find that the full extent of the various types of synaesthesia that I experience only becomes clear after I keep a record over a period of time.

A type of synaesthesia which I experience in which non-food words or names automatically evoke the concepts of particular foods: is lexical-gustatory synaesthesia an evolutionary adaptation?

Are super-recognizers the type of people that researchers discard?

I guess I’m unusual among housewives in my keen interest in the sciences that are relevant to human life, to the degree that I go beyond reading popular books and articles on the subject and I read complete science journal papers. I was once a psychology student at a university, but I didn’t complete that degree. I’ve never been satisfied to accept dumbed-down, summarized and officially-approved explanations of how things work, so I’m a bit of an autodidact, and I like to find out what goes on behind the stories that we are told by science journalists, alternative medicine advocates, doctors and pop science writers. To this end I have taught myself a bit about how research studies are conducted and written-up, and how they should be conducted and written up. One thing that many people might not be aware of is that researchers routinely discard a particular type of data from their studies, and this selective exclusion of data isn’t seen as a scandal. Outliers are observations that deviate markedly from other observations in the sample. Outliers are data points that are a long way from the mean of the sample. They are extreme values. When super-recognizers take tests of face recognition, I guess their scores could look like outliers. I’d love to know whether exceptional performances of super-recognizers have been recorded in studies, but the observations of those performances excluded from data sets. But there is no way to know, because researchers often don’t give information about excluded outliers in their papers reporting studies. Apparently the exclusion of outliers is now frowned-upon and is not regarded as best practice, but it has been a common practive in years past. Today I have been looking at a study involving a test of face processing that was published in 2006. The paper’s authors explained that two outliers were excluded. They gave no information about these excluded outliers except for the gender of the relevant study subjects. It’s a pretty poor way to conduct research, don’t you think?

The more important posts in this blog

In this blog I have described a number of types of synaesthesia that I experience which I believe possibly have not already been described by scientists, researchers or other synaesthetes and the description published or broadcast in an open medium. Perhaps my experiences are very common. Perhaps they are very rare. I don’t know. You tell me. Many synaesthetes are surprised to find that their synaesthesia experiences are not shared by all other people when they first find out that their coloured letters or flavoured words are a scientific phenomenon that has a fancy name.

Report on my fine motor task -> visual place memory synaesthesia

A Most Peculiar Experience (my description of The Strange Phenomenon)

Involuntary Method of Loci Memorization (IMLM) – what the heck is that?

The Opposite of Benson’s Syndrome?

My Brain Put to the Test

A brief report on my synaesthesia experiences that involve concepts as triggers or evoked experiences

Super-recognizer test? Forget it mate!

Moreau echo

Visual recognition is a thing that is applicable to many different types of complex images. The human brain has areas that specialize in recognizing specific categories such as faces or landscapes, but just about any type of scene or image can trigger the brain’s visual recognition hardware. I was just having a quick read of yesterday’s West, Wednesday May 11th 2011, and I looked at a colour photo of a model named Sarah Pauley modelling Maticevski on page 3 of the fashion feature bit, and something about her skirt and legs and feet looked very familiar to me. The image is very similar but not identical to the one at this link:

The difference was that the image in The West Australian newspaper had her right leg crossed over in front of her left leg, with her toe more pointed and her shoes less noticeable, making her right leg look like one long line right down to her red toenails, crossing in front of the rest of her body. Then I remembered what image it is that this fashion photo reminds me of. It is a very old painting from the Symbolist movement, a painting that has fascinated me for many years – The Apparition by Gustave Moreau:

Not just any colour

I have grapheme->colour synaesthesia, which means in everyday terms that I associate the individual letters of the alphabet, numbers up to around 12, days of the week, months of the year and other things with their own colours, and those colour associations are pretty much permanent, and have not changed since I was about five years old. You can find many descriptions of colour synaesthesia on the internet that glamourize the experience, making it sound like a psychedelic rainbow riot. The reality is a bit different. My colours do not impose themselves upon my consciousness – I do not automatically “see” colours when I see text, but if I look at the letter for a while and think about it I can “see” it’s colour in my mind’s eye. This is not mere imagination. Scientists know this because synaesthesia associations are extremely precise, reliable and stable over long periods, while trying to recall associations such as these between letters and colours using imagination combined with memory alone does not give anything like the same reliability and precision in recall.

Real grapheme->colour synaesthesia is a bit less exciting than you might imagine in another way. The colours involved often aren’t terribly inspiring, but they can be fairly interesting. A lot of the colours in my alphabet are quite dull, and I can’t find any decent, strong blue colour in the whole sequence. I do have a blue that is pale and dirty-looking, like the noon-time sky in a polluted city. Given the fact that scientists believe that grapheme->colour synaesthesia associations develop at around the age of five years, a scatological age for sure, I’m rather suspicious about why I have so many colours fixed in my mind that are the colours of bodily wastes.

Another disappointing feature of my synaesthesia is that numerals and letters that have a similar shape often have the same or very similar colours. This is a bit of a bummer because these are the instances in which it would be most useful to have the numbers or letters in very different colours, to help differentiate them, but my synaesthesia doesn’t work that way. It would be nice to look down at the shifter stick on an automatic car and see the letters “R” and “P” and “N” and “D” in very different and vibrant, saturated, inspiring colours, but no. Obviously the shapes of graphemes are an important influence in the development of synaesthesia. This perhaps shouldn’t be a surprise, as apparently the ability to tell the difference between mirror-image or rotated shapes develops rather late in children. Maybe there is similar late development in telling the difference between similar-looking graphemes. Maybe kids who have a genetic potential to develop grapheme-colour synaesthesia who are at the age at which they are developing their associations between colours and letters and numbers could also be at an age when they are still not clear about the difference between a “P” and a “D” or a “b” and a “d”.

So, my alphabet and number-line aren’t really rainbows of joy, and they contain some rather annoying and potentially misleading duplications, but I guess it has still got to be more fun than no colours at all. There are some lovely colours in my mind, and I enjoy the way the way these colours are so very specific and unique. The colours do not come from any stereotyped culturally given ideas of typical colours, but synaesthesia researchers have found that the more common letters of the alphabet tend to have colours that are primary colours and are more simple to describe. Some of the colours seem to come straight from heaven, or some random colour-generator. I was most astonished when I visited the lower floor of a fairly new library to find that it had a wall in the exact colour of Tuesday. It made my day – the exact colour! And such a cheerful, but not excessively saturated colour. The most inspiring colour in my alphabet is a colour that is hard to describe. It is a deep colour that is both warm and pink, which seems to be a contradiction. It does not seem to have a label in the English language. Today I was shopping at a Target store, and I noticed that the new season’s lady’s clothing had a few items in that exact lovely colour. Out of curiosity I checked the labels to see what colour name was used to describe these garments. The name of the colour is apparently “Luxor”. So there you have it – I have a luxor-coloured letter in my alphabet. How crazy does that sound?

Boys and their toys

It is interesting to see how many different ways the role of face recognition technology in the identification of Osama bin Laden has been reported in recent media reports. As far as I can tell from the reports, it appears that face recognition technology was not used to identify bin Laden post-mortem, as his face would have been severely injured. It appears that the face recognition technology was used last September to verify that he was living in the compound in Pakistan in which he was recently located and executed by US forces. Apparently the face recognition technology was applied to photographs taken by satellite last year, verifying that bin Laden was there, last September.

I find it rather amusing that the face recognition technology is being bought out as evidence to convince the world that Osama bin Laden has definitely been killed. Obviously, the man they found this year could conceivably not be the same bloke who was there last September, and is there anything magically infallible about man-made facial recognition technology compared to the human face recognition system? I doubt it, if you compare machines with super-recognizers. Perhaps the face recognition technology was used to make the identification of bin Laden from a poor-quality photographic image. Poor quality, deliberately snowy images of faces are a part of one of the face recognition tests that I did last year. There is nothing magical or superior about technology identifying faces in bad conditions – the human brain has evolved to do all kinds of amazing things in real-world, difficult situations. Sure, some people are not so good at face recognition, but that is no reason to be dazzled by boys and their high-tech toys. There is no device more amazing or complex than the human mind.