Monthly Archives: May 2017

Some of the more important posts in this blog

Memory is fallible, but then again, there’s super-recognizers

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

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

Is synaesthesia caused by low levels of complement? Is Benson’s syndrome (PCA) caused by too much complement C3? Could synesthesia and posterior cortical atrophy be considered in some way opposites?

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

More of my amazing ideas! Beware!

Have my ideas been plagiarized in a paper published in a neuroscience journal? I believe they have. 

Super-recognizer jobs? (This is the most popular post at this blog) 

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

The Opposite of Benson’s Syndrome?

Does fascinating advice from a super-polyglot utilize a psychological effect unknown to science?

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?


Where are the yellow bits?

The other night we were watching RocKwiz on SBS and the band and a guest singer did a cover of Goodbye Yellow-Brick Road, a major early 1970s hit by Elton John, which was a very nostalgic experience as I haven’t heard that tune much since the 1970s when by best friend was a mad-keen Elton John fan. Two things struck me: what a great and unusual song, with interesting lyrics and music that rather reminds me of another unusual and sad hit tune (How Soon is Now? by The Smiths), and what amazingly high falsetto singing the hit recording had, but the most interesting thing that I noticed when I heard the cover-version was that the bright-yellow pineapple-jelly bean-flavoured bits were missing.

They say you don’t notice things until they are gone, and I hadn’t realized that the falsetto bits of the original recording had been, for me, such a dominant (visual) feature, till I listened to a relatively colourless but enjoyable cover version, with decipherable lyrics. That amount of falsetto in a rock song is I think quite typical of the psychedelic era when the tune was created. Would it be pushing an idea to far to say this is a psychedelic recording? I don’t know why, but most of my favourite music, since I was a kid to now, has had some element of psychedelia; hypnotic repetition, extreme forms of singing, unusual instruments, unusual sound effects, extreme emotionality, etc.

Tunes that I listened to as kid or teen seem to be more often coloured than music from recent years, I guess because synaesthesia is less likely to form anew as one ages, just as new brain connections are less likely to form. It seems likely that I got the idea of that song as a yellow song from the title, but this merely abstract idea becomes an experience only when evoked by that singing, Elton’s yellow singing.

The yellow-deficient cover-version:

There’s nothing random about my number colours

I must have had an understanding of basic number facts and arithmetic when my colours for numbers became set, because there are colourful and logical patterns in the colours of digits, and this logic is also interwoven with ordinal-linguistic personification*. I’ve only just realised how formal the “logic” of my grapheme – colour synaesthesia actually is, as I’m studying and trying to use number colours as a simple mnemonic. I think synaesthesia researchers would agree that this brain-based mental phenomenon of coloured letters and numbers forms in the early years of schooling when kids first learn reading and basic maths.

The even numbers up to 10 are all colours that are or are made up from one particular “warm” colour, because even numbers have warm personalities (obviously!) because they are made up of pairs (every element inside an even number has a friend for company). I can’t stand the colours of most even numbers as they remind me of bodily waste and bodily fluids. In contrast, the odd numbers from 3 to 9 are all colours that are or are made up from another particular colour, this colour being a “cold” colour. The odd numbers have somewhat chill colours because of their inherently cool (but sometimes entertaining or dynamic) personalities, because within them there are units that have no pair, that is, they contain “loner” units. Of course, the greatest “loner unit” is the number 1, and he is so special that his colour follows a special rule for all concepts that are at the beginning of learned sequences (the special firsts). Maybe you can guess what their colour is. I’m sure you can guess the colour (or non-colour) of the digit 0. I’m not sure if there’s some rule or it was just a happy accident that the digits that are multiples of three look like a spectrum of colours with the cold colour added in greater quantity with more threes added. 3, 6 and 9 really do look like they belong in a sequence by their colours alone. Their colours are the same as the vibrant colours of the plumage of a native WA bird that I was fascinated with as a young child. I find these colours truly inspiring.

Just to complicate things, I also think Cuisinaire rods, which I used to learn maths many years ago in early primary school, have colour-digit associations that have some similarities with my number colours. No synaesthete can ever know for sure how their colours for graphemes were set in the wiring of our brains, but I suspect that I gave these colour-digit associations a lot of thought when I was a much younger student than I am now.

* a type of synaesthesia in which concepts that are learned in set sequences are involuntarily personified in a way that is very stable over time, for example, the letter D is a man with a gentle but authoritative personality

Vale Chris Cornell

For me the human voice in song is one of life’s greatest pleasures. For synaesthetes enjoyable experiences are often coloured. Many but not all voices of popular singers have specific colours, in my experience: men’s voices typically brown, women’s red, baritones deep brown, counter-tenors and falsetto yellows and whites, harsh Italian tenors shining gold, but there was only ever for me one orange singing voice – that of Chris Cornell, the late singer of Soundgarden and Audioslave fame. Orange is the colour of experiences that are so intense that they are close to painful.

Not holding my breath waiting for driverless cars

“Reliably recognising what mental states are encoded in facial expressions or bodily movements is way beyond even cutting-edge tech.”

Want to reliably recognize and interpret these visual stimuli? You need a person, or a normally-functioning human brain, that’s what you need.

Ong, Sandy Give your car a conscience: Why driverless cars need morals. New Scientist. January 7th 2017.

Stephen Fry doppelganger in here?

And another politician/celebrity doppelganger pair

Where have I seen that slightly unhinged, cheesy, sometimes grimacing smile? Oh oui!


Looks like I’m not the only librarian

who has been screwed-over by Frontiers:

Beall-listed Frontiers empire strikes back


Mind the hype about AI and machine learning

I’m an advocate of the use and hiring of super-recognizers in various work roles and tasks that involve face memory or face recognition, but there are lots of people, some with personal interests and some without, who believe that technology can or will do a better job than humans can. The interesting articles below are probably worth a read if you have an interest in new technology relevant to face processing.

Hooker, Giles Machine learning: What journalists need to know. Sense About Science USA. March 22 2017.

Reese, Hope Top 10 AI failures of 2016. TechRepublic. December 2, 2016.


Does fascinating advice from a super-polyglot utilize a psychological effect unknown to science?

Tell me about your key technique for learning a new language, and how it works

I call it shadowing. I shadow the audio of the target language by listening to it through earphones and speaking along with it as fast as I possibly can. I’ve found the best way to do this is while walking outdoors as swiftly as possible, maintaining a perfectly upright posture and speaking loudly. [and he goes on to further discuss]

Hooper, Rowan You had me at halla. New Scientist. Issue 3110 January 28 2017 p.42-43.

This is advice from Alexander Arguelles, who can speak around 50 languages, so it is definitely advice to take seriously. The part of the advice that interests me is the walking fast with an upright posture. This implies that bodily perceptions or perceptions of the position/location of the body in space, and movement, are important in boosting learning. This part of the advice fits in nicely with a phenomenon that I’ve described in at least one previous post in this blog, years ago, in which vection or actual physical bodily movement through space (in the form of walking outdoors while looking around) seems to evoke a cascade of thought, or somehow add fluency or speed to the normal train of thought (which could be described as the stream of consciousness or daydreaming). This effect is important to me (a super-recognizer synaesthete in a family that seems to have a gene for ease of learning languages and spelling) because I’ve found that when walking or driving a vehicle I get useful and creative and novel ideas that don’t happen when I’m not doing such activities. I also find that taking a shower (indoors!) has a similar effect, and I think the link to the outdoor activities is that parts of the brain that deal with bodily movement and visual-spatial perception are activated. I’ve observed that outdoor visual perception of movement through space or actual movement seem to promote thought or creativity, while it appears that Mr Arguelles has observed that this kind of experience promotes learning. As I’m a synaesthete who is interested in synaesthesia (specifically types involving visual memory and links between visual memory and conceptual thinking) I’ve suggested that this is actually a type of synaesthesia – experiences as one type of stimuli (visual-spatial) triggering or promoting, inside the brain, experiences of a very different type (language learning, combining discrete abstract concepts in thought). I don’t adhere to the idea that there’s a very sharp demarcation between synaesthetes and non-synaesthetes, but nevertheless, I’d be very interested to know whether Mr Arguelles is a synaesthete. Certainly there’s lots of evidence linking synaesthesia with superior memory, which a super-learner such as Mr Arguelles must surely possess.

Is the effect that I’ve identified and described embodied cognition? Is it a type of synaesthesia, enjoyed only by a minority of the population? Is it both? Neither? Has it already been described and named in the scientific literature? I don’t know. Does it need a name of it’s own? Visual-spatial stimuli-boosted cognition?