Monthly Archives: March 2015

All those years of neuroimaging research on the brains of synaesthetes has found nothing of substance?

Hupé J and Dojat M (2015) A critical review of the neuroimaging literature on synesthesia. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. 9:103.

“Our critical review therefore casts some doubts on whether any neural correlate of the synesthetic experience has been established yet”

That is a bit of a shock to read. This isn’t the first time that I’ve gotten a big shock after reading a paper in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. There was that little matter of some of my most amazing neuroscientific ideas published at this blog being ripped-off and used as the guts of an “opinion article” in that journal in 2013. I haven’t forgotten that episode. Who would have thought so much excitement is there to be found inside a science journal? I should make it clear that the researchers who did that thing in 2013 are NOT the authors of the above paper, but at the same time, I’ve got to wonder where Hupé and Dojat got this idea from

“…synesthesia could be reconsidered as a special kind of childhood memory, …”

Sure, they could have thought of that under their own steam, but I still want to point out that the central, seminal idea of this blog, right from the very first post in 2010, has been the idea that synaesthesia is linked in some meaningful way with face memory, in my case with super-recognizer ability in face memory, and there are many articles in this blog that show and hint that the heart of synaesthesia is memories created in childhood and many different types of synaesthesia operate in ways that are so much like memory that the differences are only quantitative. There was even one article published in 2013 at this blog in which I stated that

“…the Proust phenomenon is considered to be a type of memory and many of my observations at this blog have demonstrated that synaesthesia can involve memory, is an element of the “method of loci” memory technique and I would argue operates like memory. Yes, Yes, Yes, the Proust Phenomenon is a close relative of synaesthesia.”

Some ideas that I’d like to (explicitly) lay claim to (right now) in 2014

Damn, it’s behind a paywall

I was wondering whether this interesting-sounding paper might mention face memory ability, because other research has shown that ability in this area peaks much later than many other cognitive abilities, in the third decade of life, as I recall, and no one knows why, and it is one of those fascinating mysteries in psychological science that I love to ponder. It is certainly nice to know that there is even one cognitive ability that peaks as late as the seventh decade of life, considering how long it has been since I saw my 30th birthday. I also noticed that one of the authors of the paper (Laura Germine) is one who has done face memory research in the past, and some of the data used in the study was gathered using a website that has a history of offering free to the internet public access to world-class face memory and face perception tests ( But the paper is behind a paywall, so I’m left wondering.

Pareidolia again at Sculptures by the Sea Cottesloe

definitely male and in a sombre mood

definitely not just a hunk of metal

mr melancholy by Paul Stanwick - Wright at Sculpture by the Sea Cottesloe 2015

mr melancholy by Paul Stanwick-Wright at Sculpture by the Sea Cottesloe 2015


This story about “information artist” Heather Dewey-Hagborg  creating art (face) portraits made based on genetic information from strangers is not new, but it is new to me and I think interesting

FFS, the dress problem isn’t psychological or perceptual

I’ve done my best to ignore the nonsense surrounding That Dress but I’ve lost patience with the abundance of stupidity that has been bought to the discussion. ISN’T IT AS OBVIOUS AS THE NOSE ON YOUR FACE? Neither the dress nor the photo of the dress are optical illusions. The dress was simply photographed under lighting conditions that gave rise to a photograph featuring colours that markedly differ from the actual colours of the dress as seen under regular lighting conditions, THEREFORE, the dress in the photo is different colours to the dress in reality. Here’s the big news; colours can be manipulated in photography! Amazing isn’t it? This manipulation can be done on a photo in computerized format using various computer applications, or the colours can be manipulated or altered before the photo is taken, by lighting of the scene to be photographed. In effect, the dress in the photo is a tint of the dress in reality. Why the confusion then? The confusion arose because the question “What colour is the dress?” requires clarification, but no one had the smarts to figure out that the question could be and was likely to be interpreted in two different ways, and thus the requirement for a clarification of the question was not identified. Some people, like myself, interpreted the question to mean “What colour is the dress in the photograph?”, and clearly it is a cold, mauvey-blue unsaturated colour and golden brown, no black, definitely no black, as anyone could see if they held an actually black item up against their computer screen while viewing the photo of the dress on their screen. Understandably, many other people interpreted the question as an invitation to guess, reason or theorize what the colour of the dress might be in reality, based on the way it appears in the photo. These people correctly and cleverly guessed or reasoned that the dress is blue and black. I do wonder about those who saw white and gold, but the question was a trick question, so I wouldn’t judge them.

There’s nothing I love more than a good optical illusion or perceptual anomaly, especially in real life situations, but I’m very sure this dress thing is not one of them. This problem appears to be one for the philosophers, not the psychologists or the scientists, but then again, I’m tempted to wonder whether there might be some measurable psychological or neurological or behavioural difference between those who naturally give an answer based on their immediate visual perception and those who naturally give an answer based on their own interpretation of their visual perceptions. I suspect that the difference might be interesting and meaningful. I’ll bet the former are less prone to most genuine visual illusions.

Postscript March 5th 2015

I’d like to add another point to this post. From what I’ve read this entire dress discussion had it’s origin in the non-scientific world of social media “guys please help me – is this dress white and gold, or blue and black? Me and my friends can’t agree and we are freaking the fuck out”. This young lady who does not appear to be a scientist or a psychologist discovered a very interesting perceptual anomaly phenomenon thing that has sparked huge discussion, including discussion by and among scientists, and the story has been reported in at least one international science magazine. I find it interesting that this dress meme didn’t come from the world of science. Would it have been ignored or have failed to “go viral” if a scientist had discovered The Dress? Does this say something about the sociology of this meme, or is it more the case that a non-scientist has discovered a phenomenon that is more interesting (in regard to the way it has identified puzzlingly polarized responses in large numbers of people) than anything that scientists or academics have discovered recently. Is this an example of non-scientists (not even citizen scientists) making a greater contribution to the science of colour perception than the actual scientists who are supposed to be right on top of this stuff? I know that researchers and others have identified many different types of visual illusions that are supposed to trick most or all people, but I’m not aware of a visual stimuli that polarizes viewers the way The Dress does. Am I simply ignorant? As I have written before, I believe that science is too important to leave it to the scientists.