Tag Archives: Emotions

Is there a human sense of psychological and physical distress in others that operates below the level of consciousness?

I’ve just been watching the former Prime Minister of Australia Malcolm Turnbull being interviewed on the 7.30 news program. I was particularly struck by his revelation that during the period of his career following his gross misjudgement in the “Utegate” affair he was in a very dark emotional state, despite maintaining his usual polished and confident image. When Turnbull fell for the deception of an unhinged and ill public servant who claimed implausibibly that the very wealthy and ambitious leader of the party opposing Turnbull’s party had accepted an old utility truck as a political bribe, that destroyed my confidence in Turnbull as a leader, and we now know, it also wrecked his own self-image. As I marvelled at the contrast beteen the politician’s inner state and his exterior image, I was reminded of a baffling dream that I had when Turnbull was still a political leader.

I rarely remember my dreams, but this one was also remarkable for other reasons. In the dream I somehow percieved that Turnbull was in a dire state of unhappiness due to his work and this concerned me. His facial expression was sad but not extreme, so this was one of many examples of a dream in which I simply knew something by telepathy or unclear means. In my dream I said something like “Cheer up, it’s only a job”. Upon waking I was baffled that I even cared about this politician in my dream, as I deplored his party and never had much interest in him as an individual. I hadn’t recalled noticing any particular news or media coverage at the time suggesting a drop in this politician’s career satisfaction. After wondering what in the world had prompted this oddly vivid dream, it seemed to me that the dream was a manifestation of a basic human concern for others that operates independently of conscious rational judgements about another person’s character. Now that I know that possibly at the time of my dream I might have seen Turnbull on TV during the time when he was feeling secretly bleak, I’m left wondering whether I had unconsciously sensed something in his voice, appearance, words or manner that betrayed his real state, and this perception was explored in my dream. This wouldn’t be the first time that I apparently sensed stress and serious danger in a person I was not particularly close to.

When I was in my 20s I once got the idea into my head to write in a Christmas card a sincere hope that the recipient (not a close relative by any means) not suffer a heart attack. I thought twice about that choice of wording and asked my flat-mate if she thought it appropriate. She clearly thought I had lost my mind,  as any sensible person would, but still I felt genuine concern about this ambitious and busy person who I saw only occassionally, who always seemed to be bathed in sweat. Roughly a year later I recieved news of that person’s full recovery from a heart attack. A few years later I formed the opinion, based on what I am not sure, that one of my work supervisors, a kind person but not one who I felt was a friend, was headed for trouble due to trying to do too much in tackling the roles of mother of young children, wife, career-builder and property investor. Not long after that she came down with shingles, a nasty disease that can be triggered by stress. I’ll never know why I felt constantly concerned about a friend of one of our young adult offspring in the week before we were shocked by the terrible news of her suicide. I had only met this striking person a few times and we weren’t friends or close, but the day before we recieved the news I had been asking questions at work in the faint hope that there might be a job opportunity for her there. In hindsight, many other people would have known enough to be very concerned for her welfare, much more than I did, so I’m baffled as to how I apparently sensed imminent danger in the life of a person I barely knew and was not in direct contact with.

Maybe these anecdotes are all nothing more than unhappy coincidences that appear to be predictions when viewed in retrospect. Could I or anyone have altered fate? Even if it is possible to sense the approaching date when a friend or acquaintance will reach beyond their physical or psychological limits, I ask you, how do you save someone from themself?

https://iview.abc.net.au/show/malcolm-turnbull-the-7-30-interview

SYNAESTHESIA IS NOT A CROSSING OF THE SENSES, BECAUSE CONCURRENTS ARE MEMORIES OR LEARNED ASSOCIATIONS, NOT EXPERIENCES!

I thought I’d share my response to question that I saw posted on the internet “What is it like to have “crossing” of the senses known as synesthesia?

It is nothing like a “crossing of the senses”, because that is not what it is or how it works, regardless of the countless times that clueless non-synaesthete academics have described it that way. I do not see a colour in response to a sound instead of hearing a sound. My senses of smell, taste, vision and the other senses are normal or good for my age. Another way in which synaesthesia is not a crossing of the senses is the countless types of synaesthesia that do not have simple sensory experiences as either inducers or concurrents. Sometimes thinking of a very specific concept will trigger for a very brief time a visual memory of a scene of a place that I visited decades ago, as it looked then. The inducer is purely abstract, not sensory, and the concurrent is a memory of a visual nature. Clearly the concurrent is not a sensory experience because it is not a scene that I saw at that time, md also because the scene was the way the place looked many years ago, not as it looked at that time. This type of synaesthesia, a type that I experience quite often among many other more widely-known types of synaesthesia, is a memory of a visual sensory experience, and is not an actual sensory experience. If I actually thought that my synaesthesia concurrents were real sensory experiences, I’d be fit for a psychiatric institution, because that would be a type of hallucination.

Clearly synaesthesia as a phenomenon that involves memory, or the neural processes that give rise to memory, because numerous studies have found various types of memory superiority associated with various types of synaesthesia, often these links being between memory and synaesthesia centred upon the same areas of mental processing. This is one of the intriguing things that I have noticed about my own synaesthesia, which inspired me to write the very first post in this blog, about The Strange Phenomenon, which is an unusual and not previously described type of synaesthesia in which the inducer is a specific face viewed from a very specific angle and the concurrent is a memory of another person’s (similar) face and entire persona (face, mannerisms, personality, voice). This repeated experience linking synaesthesia with face memory prompted me to do face memory tests, including the short form of the CFMT, and unexpectedly discover my own status as a super-recognizer, a form of memory superiority in face memory.

Synaesthesia is not hallucination and synaesthetes generally understand that concurrents are not real, current sensory experiences. We understand this because we can see set patterns among groups of inducers and concurrents and know what to expect because of the great reliability of these associations between thoughts that belong in set categories. An example would be grapheme colour synaesthesia, in which most of the letters of the alphabet (a category) are individually reliably asspcoated with specific colours (another category). The way this trype of syanesthesia is experienced is more like learning or knowledge than the rapid and fleeting triggering of memories, but Iguess learning and knowledge are based on memory. With some more rarely-experienced types of synaesthesia with concurrents that seem like current sensory experiences (as in my white chocolate-flavoured hugs synaesthesia), I have been able to pick them as synaesthesia concurrents or sensory memories rather than hallucination or normal sensory experiences because the sensations are extremely brief in duration – they flash in and out of the mind in an instant, or hit like a bolt of lightning, leaving you wondering, and if I hadn’t made the effort to keep a record of these associations by writing them down, they would be quickly forgotten and not obvious as instances of synaesthesia due to their ephemeral nature. These sensations or experiences cannot be mistaken as normal sensory experiences. I think anyone who describes their synaesthesia as hard to pick from reality or like a hallucination, or constantly-occurring, is probably lying, or at least confused.

A note of warning – If you are thinking about copying or plagiarizing any of the text, ideas or descriptions in this post or using it in your own work without giving me (C. Wright, author of the blog “Am I a Super-recognizer?”) the proper acknowledgement and citations, then think again. If you do that you will be found out and my objection will be well publicized. If you believe that you published any of these ideas before I did, please let me know the details in a comment on this article. If you want to make reference to this blog post or any of the ideas in it make sure that you state in your work exactly where you first read about these ideas. If you wish to quote any text from this post be sure to cite this post at this blog properly. There are many established citation methods. If you quote or make reference to material in this blog in your work, it would be a common courtesy to let me know about your work (I’m interested!) in a comment on any of the posts in this blog. Thank you.

I want…

I want to organise a staring competition between Greta Thunberg and Tim Sebastian, I’d like to arrange a game of poker pitting Rudy Giuliani against Michaelia Cash, I think it would be amusing to place a vase of pure white flowers inside an unfashionably colourful home, I’m curious to try transfusing Lance Armstrong with blood from a hypergammaglobulinaemic and see how fast he could ride his bike then, and I’d also like to wish my readers, if there still are any, a very merry Christmas.

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.

https://www.newscientist.com/article/2090656-controversial-software-claims-to-tell-personality-from-your-face/

 

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

http://www.abc.net.au/lateline/content/2015/s4448965.htm

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.

http://www.sculpturebythesea.com/image-gallery/cottesloe.aspx?Year=2012&Location=Outdoor

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:

http://www.inmycommunity.com.au/going-out/theatre-and-the-arts/Sculpture-by-the-Seas-new-season/7657457/

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

http://www.daysyn.com/MarksandMulvenna2013.pdf

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3783847/

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.

http://www.popsci.com.au/science/being-in-love-makes-water-taste-sweeter

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.

http://psycnet.apa.org/index.cfm?fa=buy.optionToBuy&id=2013-32692-001