Tag Archives: Emotions

Famous doubles, celebrity doppelgangers, you know what I mean….

Late-night TV is the best TV, for many reasons: programs don’t have to rate well and don’t have to pander to the mindless masses, programs can have challenging or naughty content, such as satirical comedy or heart-rending documentaries, because of less restrictions from classifications, and news TV in the small hours picks up the best part of the news-creating day on the other side of the world where all the exciting stuff happens, and late-night news TV has shows from the BBC and other overseas news networks with serious content that operates on an entirely different level to the mediocrity of news in remote Perth or down-under Australia. One of these worthy foreign news programs that you only get to see at a ridiculous time of morning is the political interview show Conflict Zone. I do love watching Tim Sebastian glaring over his specs at major foreign public figures while relentlessly demanding that they answer his questions, in full. I have no idea why these politicians and assorted suits consent to these public inquisitions. Masochistic streak? It makes 7.30 on the ABC look like daytime chat.

My super-recognizer thing often “goes off” when I watch Mr Sebastian’s mature male face, with his dark eyes fixed on his prey and his head at a lowered angle that is reminiscent of a wolf’s aggressive stance. I know of no other journo or TV personality who has this “look”. It’s confronting.

I have absolutely no conscious intention to compare Mr Sebastian to any infamous historical figure, but I can’t help automatically seeing the visual facial resemblance and the emotional similarity in the situation between Mr Sebastian’s bracing interview style and scenes from a German movie featuring a mature male actor that are so over-the-top in interpersonal fury and entertaining that they have taken on a second life as internet meme fodder.


Can you spot a sex offender or a terrorist just by looking at their face?

Adee, Sally Controversial software claims to tell personality from your face. New Scientist. May 27th 2016.

Similar story also in print: Issue 3076. June 4th 2016.



Harts seems to be describing musical synaesthesias

The Indian born singer-songwriter who was invited to hang out and jam with Prince. Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
Broadcast: 22/04/2016 on Lateline
Reporter: Simon Smithers


I was just watching Lateline on ABC television (Australian), and following the passing of the legendary American musician Prince Lateline ran a story about the young Australian musician Harts who has been a guest of Prince and has also been mentored by the famous musician. Both musicians clearly share a major influence from the late synaesthete guitarist Jimi Hendrix. In the Lateline story, which is yet to be posted for viewing at the Lateline website, Harts described associations between colours, textures and music that is clearly synaesthesia. It seems to be a very common thing for synaesthetes to experience coloured music, and synaesthesia itself is a quite common phenomenon so the fact that Harts seems to be a synaesthete is not hard to believe or that big a deal. I do think it is interesting though. Harts, Prince and Hendrix all typify the notion of the musically creative individual, as artists following their own creative paths, playing a style of music that is full of colour and innovation and improvisation. Synaesthesia is thought to be linked to creativity. Could even be true.

I’m not an expert in music but I think the music of all three would all be regarded as psychedelic rock, a genre of music that has fascinated me since I was a child despite no cultural nor family influences pushing me in that direction. The music that I grew up listening to was cheesy nonsense that my folks enjoyed, hideous trad jazz, 1970s musicals, theatre organ music, disco….. And I survived! The closest things to psychedelia that I heard as a child was early electronic music and psychedelic rock of the 60s and 70s played on the radio, including the Beatles later stuff. Right until my 5th decade I hadn’t realised I had been a mad fan of psychedelic rock all my life until I started reading music reviews on Allmusic, and found that a the very disparate collection of musicians and groups who are my musical favourites all produced some music that had been categorized as psychedelic, even a favourite Australian musician Ed Kuepper, who I had the pleasure of meeting recently. Colourful as it might be, the colours aren’t the reason why I enjoy this type of music. I think the appeal is the strange and otherworldly feelings evoked by the music; the mesmerizing repetition, the emotionalism, the surprising twists, the fear and the awe. Maybe you need to have a hyperconnected brain to get all this out of mere sequences of sounds.

I’d bet my hat that the colourful and creative purple Prince was also a synaesthete, one way or another, but unless he spoke about it in the past we will never know.

Lexical-gustatory synaesthesia investigation as a form of psychotherapy?

I’m wondering why both of the words “morning” and “program” or as it was spelled when I was young “programme” always elicit a subtle taste experience of bland sloppy breakfast cereal (probably Weet Bix) softened to pap with milk. The whole experience reeks of boredom and ordinariness and mediocrity. I suspect that these synaesthesia associations are based on memories from my early school years, memories of eating a cheap and convenient and inferior breakfast (better than none I guess) and then being sent to primary school to listen to an unforgivably boring school assembly while being made to stand still in the cold morning air while singing along with one of those dreary songs from the 1970s about the morning (that one by Cat Stevens and there was another, some folk tune). I’m not sure how the word “program” fits into this picture, but I know that it is a word often used in a bland and meaningless way by administrators and bureaucrats and teachers to describe things that turn out to be less exciting than they appeared; “We are going to listen to a radio program this morning children” “If you do your best you will be allowed to take part in a special sport program”. How I hate programs! How I hate mornings! How I hated being made to drink plain milk from a little glass bottle in the morning at school! And how I hate eating nothing but wholegrain slop as a meal to start my day! I just want to to stay up late and watch Mrs Brown’s Boys and get up after 10 and eat bacon, eggs and ripe sweet red grilled tomatoes for breakfast, on crunchy toast with plenty of butter! No I do not want to get with the program!

Embodied within sculptures made of metal

I’m regretting that I never found the time to write about the works displayed at Sculpture by the Sea 2012 at Cottesloe because I know I had in mind to try to explain why Highness by the Iraqi Australian sculptor Ayad Alqaragholli had such an immediate impact on the viewer and appeal. The sculpture reached high into the clear blue summer sky and sea air, depicting a scene of human acrobatic performance with a joyful mood. I noticed that our young child felt compelled to perform handstands on the grass near the sculpture after viewing the piece of art, and I wondered whether there was something deeply psychological about the way it is typically received by people, perhaps evoking some kind of mirror-neuron activity. I was also fascinated by the way in which the emotion of joy had been depicted in the piece using body-related metaphors of reaching, expansion and elevation. The emotion of joy had been embodied in the sculpture, so was this sculpture something to do with embodied cognition? I felt that it must have. Regardless of the theory that might be read into the scuplture, it was my personal favourite for that year. I just liked it. We enjoyed it.


Not long ago I spotted this local newspaper article by Tanya MacNaughton about Ayad Alqaragholli and another one of his works, Embrace, which is exhibited in this year’s Cottesloe outdoor exhibition:


and his new sculpture seems to have a similar theme, and once again I thought it was clear that there is some kind of metaphorical thinking in his work which I feel is similar to embodied cognition:

“There’s so much freedom for young people even when they’re just walking down the street; I like to have people flying in my artwork to show how happy they are.”

Flying = happy

up = happy

down = sad

freedom = flying

repression = trapped

imprisonment = held down

This is a scheme connecting emotional states with spatial locations, and social situations and feelings with physical situations. It seems to be one or two kinds of synaesthesia, but could also be interpreted as embodied cognition because after all, it is human bodies that are depicted in Mr Alqaragholli’s sculptures.

I can’t wait to get to Cott Main Beach to see the exhibition. Can’t wait to see all the sculptures! Can’t wait to have a dip too and take some photos and see the sunset over the sea and hear the noise of the feral rainbow lorikeets roosting in the tall pine trees. I love summer in Perth!


Embrace by Ayad Alqaragholli

Embrace by Ayad Alqaragholli

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)

Are these forms of synesthesia?

Synesthesia, at and near its borders. Lawrence Marks and Catherine Mulvenna Frontiers in Psychology. 2013; 4: 651. Published online 2013 September 26. doi:  10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00651



I would say a definite “yes”  that SENSORY AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL MEMORY or the PROUST PHENOMENON described in this paper is related to synaesthesia, in fact I would say it is a type of synaesthesia. Just look at how it works; there is a trigger and a triggered experience like in synaesthesia, both are highly specific and can be highly idiosyncratic, there is a set connection between the both, the phenomenon is involuntary and automatic, and 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. I would even speculate that synaesthetes might experience the Proust Phenomenon more often than others and some people who aren’t synaesthetes maybe never experience the Proust Phenomenon.

Shaunacy Being In Love Makes Water Taste Sweeter. Australian Popular Science. 17 Oct 2013.


I was stunned when I first read this article about a set of studies (details below) that could be regarded as investigations of flavoured emotion synaesthesia experienced by study subjects who are not known to be synaesthetes. I was stunned because the effect of hightened experiencing of the taste of sweetness when primed to be thinking about of experiencing love described in this article seems to be very similar to my own rare experiences of white chocolate flavoured hugs, from the time when one of our kids was an incredibly cute preschooler. All money is on the theory that my anterior cingulate cortex was being activated at that moment, in a big way.

Chan, Kai Qin; Tong, Eddie M. W.; Tan, Deborah H.; Koh, Alethea H. Q. What do love and jealousy taste like? Emotion. Vol 13(6), Dec 2013, 1142-1149.


Brain stimulation study with prosopagnosics in the works

According to the news at the website of the Banissy Lab, Dr Michael Banissy, who is perhaps best known for his research on mirror-touch synaesthesia, has been given a grant for a study which “will seek to determine the extent to which non-invasive brain stimulation can be used to aid the perception of social cues in typical adults and developmental prosopagnosia.” I’m not quite sure why the perception of social cues is being studied in people who have developmental prosopagnosia, as it is my understanding that prosopagnosia is a disorder of face memory or face recognition, not face perception or facial expression, but what do I know? I’m just a housewife.


Evocative images?

I was reading this fascinating article about Depersonalisation disorder in a science magazine, and my curiosity was sparked by this “These people also show unusual autonomic physical responses to external stimuli, such as evocative images (Emotion Review, DOI: 10.1177/1754073911430135).” Unfortunately I probably can’t access the paper referred to thru our inadequate library system. I was curious because based on that short quote is sounds something like synaesthesia, which wouldn’t seem to fit into the story about the neurological basis of this disorder.

Another thing that made me wonder was why this neurological condition is being described as a mental illness, both in the way the magazine categorized the article under “mental health” and also in the paper cited, which clearly describes DPD as a psychiatric condition and the author of the paper is a professor of psychiatry. A case which had an onset triggered by a migraine is described in the article, and it says that the condition responds to an epilepsy drug. Isn’t that a clear enough indication that it’s neurological not psychiatric? There are some important differences to patients between being diagnosed as mentally ill or having a neurological condition. People with epilepsy, stuttering, autism and Tourettes fought to be liberated from labeling as psychiatric cases, because of all of the legal and social negatives that go with such labeling. I hope people with DPD are able to do the same, and avoid any unjustified use of psychiatry drugs.

Mindscapes: The woman who was dropped into her body. by Helen Thomson New Scientist. 25 April 2013   http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn23445-mindscapes-the-woman-who-was-dropped-into-her-body.html

P. S. May 2nd 2013

Oh, what a stupid mistake! Either I’ve misread the New Scientist article or the author has written it in a way that is unclear, and it appears that the people with DPD don’t experience evocative images, they were shown emotionally evocative images during studies. I guess that is the type of mistake that only a weird old synaesthete would make.

Anyway, thanks to Dr Nick Medford for sharing his most interesting study with me. It’s interesting that DPD might be triggered by disturbance in sensory systems, which seems in some way similar or related to embodied cognition. At this blog I’ve written about relationships between embodied cognition, conceptual thinking and synaesthesia in my own case and I very much like the idea of embodied cognition. There seems to be a growing understanding that embodied perception and sensory experiences rather than language are the stuff of thought, as can be seen in some writing by philosopher Jesse Prinz and a new book by cognitive scientist Benjamin Bergen who has argued that “When we hear words and sentences we engage the parts of our brain that we use for perception and action, repurposing these evolutionarily older networks to create simulations in our minds” and thus create meaning. Here’s some links if you are interested in chasing up books by Bergen and Prinz:  http://www.amazon.com/Louder-Than-Words-Science-Meaning/dp/0465028292  and  http://subcortex.com/

Added an afterthought to a recent post

Did the police and everyone else get it wrong? http://wp.me/p1dnAW-qH

Another aspect of interest in the above linked post is one comment in it, which is off the topic of the post, but I don’t mind. It is a comment from Michael who wrote that he experiences a type of coloured face / aura synaesthesia that involves emotions, similar to the other fascinating cases described in the synesthesia study by Spanish researchers published this March in the journal Consciousness and Cognition, which I wrote about in a post at this blog, and would like to find the time to write more about, but probably wont.

Other cases of synaesthesia involving face perception – I’m certainly not the only one.  https://superrecognizer.wordpress.com/2012/05/06/other-cases-of-synaesthesia-involving-face-perception-im-certainly-not-the-only-one/