Have you seen this interesting study of personification synaesthesia and empathy?

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.

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  • astrosteph  On October 30, 2013 at 6:23 pm

    I also have OLP but interestingly I feel my facial recognition is below average. Sometimes to the point where I wonder if it crosses over into ‘face blindess’. I also have trouble working out if people are the person I think they are or a stranger who looks similar, I just don’t seem to pay attention to the details of a persons face, sometimes I pull strangers aside for a conversation until they say they don’t know me! But I figure that’s better then not recognising someone I’m supposed to know. But I’m so grateful to have this name ‘OLP’ it has been such a big part of my life, and the few times I’ve mentioned it or confided in someone I got the strangest looks and ridicule. So it’s been comforting to know other people can understand the condition and it wasn’t some crazy imaginary thing I had.

  • C. Wright  On October 31, 2013 at 11:20 am

    Hello “Astrosteph”. If you would like to know whether you really do have an issue with face recognition there are plenty of free tests that you can do, or you could contact researchers to ask about testing. Many links to online tests can be found at my blog.

    I’m curious to understand how OLP is a big part of your life. It’s a very small part of my life and it doesn’t obviously affect anything that I do.

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