I experience personified numbers and letters of the alphabet, involving genders, ages and personalities. Although this experience does not fit into the popular definition of synaesthesia as a mixing up of the senses, it is considered to be a type of synaesthesia and it often coincides with another type of synaesthesia, grapheme->colour synaesthesia, in which numbers and letters are experienced as having their own particular colours. The proper term for this personification of written symbols is Ordinal linguistic personification, and in a recent journal paper it was described as a “benign form of hyper-mentalizing” (Amin et al 2011).
In this blog I’ve argued a number of times that there is a causal relationship between synaesthesia and enhanced face recognition ability, and I believe that whatever parts of my brain give rise to my very good face recognition ability are also the parts of my brain that are responsible for my ordinal linguistic personification (OLP) and my grapheme->color synesthesia. I explained some of this in my post lengthily titled “Reflections on The Strange Phenomenon, how I gunned the CFMT, letter personification in advertising and clue to a possible cure for some cases of prosopagnosia after reading an old journal paper”.
Here’s some quotes from a journal paper about grapheme personification synesthesia which was published this year in the Journal of Neuropsychology:
“From this mixed pattern of results, we cannot conclude that as a group, personifying synaesthetes exhibit heightened empathy.”
“We suggest that grapheme personification, rather than a peculiar set of claims to be dismissed, is a goldmine for social cognitive neuroscientists and cognitive neuropsychologists alike.”
I certainly agree with that!
Maina Amin, Olufemi Olu-Lafe, Loes E. Claessen, Monika Sobczak-Edmans, Jamie Ward, Adrian L. Williams, and Noam Sagiv
Understanding grapheme personification: A social synaesthesia?
Journal of Neuropsychology. (2011), 5, 255–282.
Reflections on The Strange Phenomenon, how I gunned the CFMT, letter personification in advertising and clue to a possible cure for some cases of prosopagnosia after reading an old journal paper.