Tag Archives: Consciousness and Cognition (journal)

Personification is no joke! No laughing!

Grumpy Cat was one of the biggest things in popular culture in 2013, winning a Webby Award for the Meme of the Year. The cat is actually a slightly genetically deformed feline who has a face that just happens to appear to the human eye as though it is expressing human grumpiness. Some of the more inbred breeds of cat also seem to have this dish-pan face look. The attribution of grumpiness to a cat would be an example of the personification of an animal, or to use another term, anthropomorphism of an animal. I think there’s also a psychological phenomenon that goes the other way – I know people who look like grumpy Persian cats or owls or pigs or horses…. A type of synaesthesia in which people resemble animals has been noted in a very interesting 2012 research paper, which could I guess be an extreme manifestation of the common tendency to see animal form in the faces of some people.

In my blog I have been exploring the idea that whichever areas of the brain give rise to personification, including the varieties of personification that are now classified as types of synaesthesia, and maybe also the attribution of animal form to some human faces, are also parts of the brain involved with face recognition or superiority in face recognition or face memory. It’s all about recognizing visual patterns and linking those patterns with stored memories of living beings, be they animals or individual people. So this personification bizzo is very serious stuff, and I’m glad to say that the grumpy cat appears to grasp the seriousness of the situation.

Grumpy Cat Images. Know Your Meme. http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/grumpy-cat/photos

Wikipedia contributors Grumpy Cat.  Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Grumpy_Cat&oldid=588597988

E.G. MilánO. IborraM. HochelM.A. Rodríguez ArtachoL.C. Delgado-PastorE. SalazarA. González-Hernández Auras in mysticism and synaesthesia: A comparison. Consciousness and Cognition.  Volume 21 Issue 1, March 2012, Pages 258–268.http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1053810011002868  (This paper is clearly a translation and difficult reading in parts)

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

“In short, for our person–colour synaesthetes the inducer can be sensorial, semantic or a motor one: An emotion, an action, an attitude, facial recognition or sense of familiarity. Then we can speak of synaesthesia, ideaesthesia (Nikolic, 2009) and kinetoesthesia.”

That is a quote from a very interesting paper by Spanish psychology researchers that was published in the journal Consciousness and Cognition in March of this year. So we have a case of synaesthesia involving facial recognition described in a science journal. So I’m not the only one in the world. I never thought I was the only one, in fact I think I might have predicted that other cases must exist, somewhere in this blog, based on the observation that functions of the fusiform gyrus are so often involved in the various types of synesthesia (colour perception, letter recognition, word recognition) and face recognition is another function of the fusiform gyrus. I have given a special name to my own experience of facial recognition synaesthesia – “The Strange Phenomenon”, and I described it in great detail in the very first post in this blog. This blog was created as a record of my search to find a scientific explanation for The Strange Phenomenon. The authors of the March 2012 paper also found action-related synaesthesia, which is another unusual type of synaesthesia that I experience which I have also described in detail in this blog. I often experience images in my mind’s eye of sometimes very old memories of landscape scenes from my past triggered by doing fine-motor household chores with my hands.

The question needs to be asked – why have Spanish researchers been able to discover and describe such interesting and complex cases of synaesthesia, while there don’t seem to be comparable case studies from the UK or the US? I’ve never seen people -> animal synaesthesia described or even mentioned as a possibility before reading the fascinating paper that was published in March in the journal Consciousness and Cognition. Perhaps the apparently negative attitude of V. S. Ramachandran towards synaesthete subjects of study gives a clue as to why more interesting synaesthesia case studies seem to be missing from research from English-speaking countries. The famous Rama’s habit of describing synesthesia as a scrambling of the brain grates the first time one reads it and gets very, very old once I’ve seen it in print a few times. On the other hand, perhaps there is nothing wrong with Anglophone synaesthesia researchers, and it is simply the case that the Spanish have more interesting minds, including Spanish synaesthetes. Having viewed paintings by Dali and photos of buildings by Gaudi and witnessed a strikingly original and often quite dangerous performance by La Fura Dels Baus at the Perth International Arts Festival a couple of years ago, I could believe that.

E.G. Milán, O. Iborra, M. Hochel, M.A. Rodríguez Artacho, L.C. Delgado-Pastor, E. Salazar, A. González-Hernández Auras in mysticism and synaesthesia: A comparison. Consciousness and Cognition.  Volume 21 Issue 1, March 2012, Pages 258–268. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1053810011002868  (This paper is clearly a translation and difficult reading in parts)

Synesthesia May Explain Healers Claims of Seeing People’s ‘Aura’. ScienceDaily. May 4th 2012http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120504110024.htm

Ramachandran VS, Miller L, Livingstone MS, Brang D. Colored halos around faces and emotion-evoked colors: A new form of synesthesia. Neurocase. Available online: 25 Nov 2011.  DOI:10.1080/13554794.2011.608366. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13554794.2011.608366   http://psy2.ucsd.edu/~dbrang/images/Ramachandran_NNCS_InPress.pdf

Ramachandran VS The Tell-Tale Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Quest for What Makes Us Human. W. W. Norton & Company, 2011http://www.amazon.com/The-Tell-Tale-Brain-Neuroscientists-Quest/dp/0393077829  http://books.google.com.au/books/about/The_Tell_Tale_Brain.html?id=Y5vLDglww74C&redir_esc=y (Robert with coloured face aura synaesthesia indicating emotions percieved in others and also diagnosed with Asperger syndrome described on pages 101-102.)

Thomson, Helen Is this proof that spooky auras are real? Short Sharp Science (blog at New Scientist) 14 November 2010. http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/34lNK2/www.newscientist.com/blogs/shortsharpscience/2010/11/auras.html?utm_source=KurzweilAI+Daily+Newsletter&utm_campaign=0ab5dd44ff-UA-946742-1&utm_medium=email/r:t