Monthly Archives: May 2012

Book review in the works…………

I’m very much enjoying reading the new popular science book Beyond Human Nature by Professor Jesse J. Prinz. I’m excited by his writing about Empiricism in the study of psychology, and I wish my local library had his 2004 book titled Furnishing the Mind: Concepts and Their Perceptual Basis in stock, so that I could read that book as well.

Jesse Prinz


What are your thoughts on Involuntary Method of Loci Memorization (IMLM) please?

I’m very grateful for the few but very interesting comments that have been made at this blog from people from all around the world describing their own interesting experiences which are similar to things that I have described (thank you again Dayna, Luis, Nick, Gentoooo… :-)). Clearly I am not the only person in the world who experiences synaesthesia-like linkages between thinking about concepts and memories of spatial locations. This much is true, but I’m still curious about how common such experiences are. Perhaps this stuff is so ordinary that it is barely worth studying, but if that is true, I’ve got to wonder why in all my reading, including a lot of reading of stuff written by scientists and psychologists, I’ve not seen such an experience described or named anywhere. In the last three months I’ve had quite a few thousands of views of this blog from all over the globe, but very little feedback from my readers, which seems like a lost opportunity, and that is why I’d appreciate it is you could spend some time letting me know what your experience is regarding mental associations between visual memories and conceptual thinking. Do you automatically visualize specific old memories of scenes when you think of particular concepts? When you revisit a particular place, do you automatically think of the concept that you learned about when you were at that location years ago? Do you experience involuntary method of loci memorization (IMLM) (as described below)?

IMLM is the name that I’ve given for a phenomenon which I and some of my close relatives experience. I am wondering whether I am the first person to have ever written a published description of this type of experience, which I believe is related to synaesthesia. The basis of this memory phenomenon appears to be the long-term incidental/accidental formation of a stable neurological association between the visual image of a scene of an exact location where one was at and information absorbed through interested, attentive reading or through interested, attentive listening at a time when one was present at and looking at that exact location. If one revisits that exact location and looks at the same scene, the memory of the information absorbed at that location is automatically and involuntarily recalled, and unless one makes a conscious effort to consciously remember or record the linkage between the scene and the concept, the thought of that concept will vanish from the mind as abruptly as it arrived, when you move away from that exact location. It is as though the thought of that concept is switched on and off by some external agent (but please be reassured that I don’t suffer from any delusions about “thought control”). There does not need to be any logical link between the place or the scene and the concept. Recall of the concept can happen years later when the place is revisited. In my case the form in which the information is recalled is in conceptual form – I do not “hear” in my mind’s ear the sound of the original radio broadcast, and I do not “read” in my mind’s eye information read at that location. I just remember the gist of what was learned at that location, but I have a close relative who has reported a particular pop song being automatically recalled through this kind of phenomenon, so for other people IMLM might involve or trigger memories of music or other memories of sounds instead of concepts, or in addition to concepts.

How would you describe your experience or opinion of involuntary method of loci memorization (IMLM), in a comment?

1. I’ve never heard of anything like this and have never experienced it.

2. I’m not sure if I’ve ever experienced this, I’d have to check.

3. I think I might know someone else who has experienced this – I’d have to check.

4. I have never experienced this, probably because I am never exposed to the types of situations that bring it about (I never read books or listen to talk radio in novel, outdoor locations).

5. I rarely experience this, probably because I am hardly ever exposed to the types of situations that bring it about.

6. I have experienced this ocassionally.

7. I sometimes experience this type of thing.

8. I often experience this type of thing.

9. I have experienced this and I think it is perfectly normal and common, nothing out of the ordinary.

10. I and other people I know have experienced this and I think it is perfectly normal, nothing out of the ordinary.

11. I often experience this type of thing, and I have blood a relative or relatives who also experience it.

12. I often experience this type of thing, and I am also a synaesthete.

13. I often experience this type of thing, and I am definitely not a synaesthete.

14. I often experience this type of thing, and I am also a super-recognizer.

15. I often experience this type of thing, and I am not a super-recognizer.

16. I often experience this type of thing and I also have special abilities in memory.

17. I often experience this type of thing and I have no apparent special abilities in memory.

18. I experience something similar but not exactly the same.


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

Concept -> scene synaesthesia: my experiences and others’ experiences

Wikipedia contributors, ‘Method of loci’, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 26 May 2012, 09:28 UTC, <> [accessed 28 May 2012]

Another super-recognizer test, just a wee little one

Maybe this is the super-recognizer test which lots of my recent blog readers were looking for. You don’t need to be logged on to Facebook to do it. It appears to be the creation of the UK face recognition researcher Dr Ashok Jansari and his team at the University of East London and it is presented by the UK TV show Hidden Talent. I had a go at this test and got a score in the normal, not super-recognizer range. It is a tricky test, requiring the person doing the test to identify faces seen for only seconds in two quite different emotional and visual contexts. The test is designed so that non-face elements of a person’s appearance such as hair cannot be used to identify, thus it is a true test of face recognition and can’t be cheated by using memory for other elements, and this test also it isn’t just a test of photograph recognition, which is a criticism that can be made of some other tests that only use one photo of each face in the test, with photos often including hair and other background elements. One good thing about the test is that it includes faces of both sexes, which possibly makes it a more realistic measure, while some tests of face memory used by university researchers include only male faces, including the respected Cambridge Face Memory Test. People taking this test are required to memorise faces shown from a particular angle and displaying a particular emotional expression, and are later required to identify some of these memorized faces shown in a different angle and/or a different emotional expression. This might seem like a realistic way to test face recognition but I doubt that it is, because in real-life situations even if we only meet a person for minutes or seconds we usually get the opportunity to memorize the appearance of a face across some kind of range of angles and expressions. This is not the same situation as being required to recognize a face across a range of angles and expressions. In this test I think the phase of face memorization is limited compared to real-life situations of face memorization. If the difference between a natural super-recognizer and a normal recognizer lies in the richness of the encoding of the memories of faces, then this test might not be fit to measure this. I believe the fairly artificial limtation of the memorization phase is one of this test’s flaws, and in this respect it reminds me a lot of the second test of face recognition which I was given to do when I volunteered as a research subject in an Australian university in 2011. I don’t know the official name of that test and I was never informed of my score in that test. In that test I was required to memorize Chinese-looking male faces in profile and identify them displayed in a full-face angle, and it just didn’t feel like face recognition. I know that any success that I had in that test was probably due to employing conscious strategies for face matching (such as making conscious note of facial features and matching skin colours), which most certainly isn’t natural face recognition (which is a completely automatic and unconscious process, rather like synaesthesia).

One could also definitely criticise this test for not being large or long enough, and thus more likely to give results biased by chance. There are only 11 faces presented for memorization, to be picked out of a set of 15 faces presented in the second part of the test. Compare this with the short version of the Cambridge Face Memory Test with a maximum possible score of 72, and it’s clear that this test is not a lot more than a bit of fun. One definite problem with this test is that I found that I could get a score in the normal range using a very simple strategy without even looking at the faces. I’m wondering how anyone could get a score in the low range, and this test appears to have no value for identifying prosopagnosia. A criticism that could be levelled at all tests of face recognition or face memory is that they don’t reflect real life face recognition situations. When we meet people, even if it is just for a few seconds, we usually see a moving, speaking image, not a still image, and in that movement we see not just a face from a range of angles but also the accompanying body language, probably a range of different emotional expressions, and also the very individual ways in which a person moves their face and body. When you meet a person you see the life and the personality in their face and body, not just a static piece of meat, and that is more memorable than a still image of a face. I’m wondering why face recognition researchers haven’t come up with a test that uses video clips rather than still photographs. It seems like an obvious way to make a face recognition test more like a test of what people need to be able to do in real life.

Super recogniser.

Magnet by Bombay Bicycle Club

I wouldn’t know about this piece of pop music if we didn’t have any teenager in our family. I don’t know a thing about this band, except that they are probably young and talented. When I heard the sound of this tune floating out of one of the bedrooms of our house I wondered if it might be Tame Impala. This tune struck me as a bit psychedelic because of the colour in the chorus, with its wooo wooo wooo style of singing, which is the kind of thing that you might find in the chorus of a psychedelic song. The colour is a pleasant light mauve-grey, rather like the colour that is currently in the background of this blog.

The more important posts in this blog

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

Other cases of synaesthesia involving face perception – I’m certainly not the only one

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

The Opposite of Benson’s Syndrome?

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

My Brain Put to the Test

Science Week 2011 – The world of science and me in the past year

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

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

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?

Dr Marlene Behrmann explains prosopagnosia

I’ve come across a YouTube video in which Dr Marlene Behrmann talks in an interview from last year about prosopagnosia and gives an authoritative explanation of what it is. She seems to have a slight South African accent.

While watching Dr Behrmann discussing the differences between the typical eye movements of prosopagnosics and regular study subjects while looking at faces I wondered whether the typical eye movements of super-recognizer study subjects might be found to be similar or disssimilar to the eye movements of normal people with average face recognition ability.

Peng, Cynthia Marlene Behrmann – prosopagnosia. goCognitive. uploaded Sep 25, 2011.

What happened yesterday?

Wednesdays are usually good days for reader stats but yesterday there was an extraordinary spike in stats for this blog. It was a large amount of traffic from the UK, and appears to be a media-driven upswing in interest in testing relevant to super-recognizers or superrecognition. There is definitely an international interest in an online test specifically designed to sort super-recognisers from normal people which is culturally-neutral and substantial enough to give meaningful results. It’s a pity such a thing does not appear to be freely available.

Hidden Talent Series 1 Episode 5 May 22 2012 Channel 4 UK

Pareidolia pictures

Xanthorrhoea plant looks like an Aboriginal man's face - pareidolia

“Blackboy” looks like a “black man” at park in Perth suburb – an example of pareidolia

Orange glass vase in window display looks like a face from one angle - example of pareidolia

Orange glass vase in window display looks like a face from one angle – example of pareidolia

Shipwreck by Steve Croquett at Sculpture by the Sea Cottesloe 2012

Shipwreck by Steve Croquett at Sculpture by the Sea Cottesloe 2012

Coloured Flavour / Smell Synaesthesia or Taste to Colour Synaesthesia – a type that I only experience occasionally

Most taste experiences are an amalgam of taste sensation on the tongue and smell sensations in the nose, so to be completely correct this isn’t purely triggered by a taste, smell is certainly an element, but in plain-language terms, the trigger is a novel taste or flavour.

This only happens during the unusual situation in which I am at a public swimming pool or some other place where I have the smell of chlorine in my nose and I am also drinking iced coffee, and there is some kind of chemical reaction between the chlorine and the coffee in my mouth/nose resulting in a peculiar smell/taste that is somewhat like a floral or perfumey smell. It is a black-coloured smell/taste. Sometimes the image of a black-coloured flower flashes into my mind, shaped something like a simple lily. Upon reflection I believe that it is the surprise or novelty of the modification of the usual flavour of iced coffee that is the synaesthesia trigger or inducer. Often as an afterthought after this experience I realise that the normal taste of iced coffee is a brown-coloured taste, but I never notice this as it is such an ordinary thing that it kind of stays below the level of consciousness.

Rarely experienced types of synaesthesia – I’ve noticed some interesting patterns

Inspired by reading the fascinating fairly new journal paper by Spanish researchers comparing some more rare types of synesthesia with auras in mysticism, I have been playing with the idea of writing a post in which I list all of the types of synaesthesia that I have ever experienced, the common and the rare, and then I started writing down all of the rare types that I’ve only ever had happen a few times or even only once. I noticed something interesting about these types – out of a total of eight that I’ve thought of, three of them appear to be triggered by the novelty of a sensory or linguistic experience, and all other five types have some aspect of a person or persons as the “inducer” or trigger. So my rarely experienced types of synaesthesia appear to have completely different categories of triggers as my more frequent or ordinary synaesthesia experiences, which can be triggered by learned concepts such as years or numbers, or can be triggered by movement (manual chores) or music or purely sensory experiences like smell or voices. There seem to be two really quite distinct classes of synaesthesia types, the rare sporadic types triggered by persons or novelty, and the common frequent types triggered by the types of sensory and conceptual stimuli that researchers have already fully explored and described, at least in the way that my mind works. Why?