Tag Archives: Playgrounds

More of my amazing ideas! Beware!

In the past at this blog I’ve shared a large collection of ideas in the areas of neuroscience and psychology that I’ve managed to think up all by myself, independently but often with inspiration from my own experiences, situations that I’ve observed or my reading of science magazines or scientific literature, or a combination of the above. I’ve not exhaustively searched to see if I was the first person ever to publish all of these ideas, but I’m sure that some of them at least were first published by me at this blog.

I’d now below like to add to my collection of ideas, but this time not limiting myself to the subject areas of this blog. Please note that this page and all pages at this blog are permanently archived, and if you choose to copy my words or plagiarize any of my ideas, if I was the first to publish that idea or ideas, I will find out and I will make you sorry. Very sorry. 

So, here’s some ideas, some serious, some not so:

Chocolate goods producers and major supermarkets can prevent groups of racist redneck lunatics from accusing them of pandering to non-Christian minorities by failing to label traditional Easter and Christmas goods explicitly as Easter and Christmas goods, by bringing out a range of colourful foil-wrapped chocolate Jesus figures and delicious Flake-bar crucifixes, maybe even entire chocolate nativity scenes and twelve apostles sets, all clearly labelled “Easter” and Christmas”.

As a form of living sculpture or sensory play activity for children, grow one of those mulberry trees that has an abundance of black fruit and grows very large, and underneath the canopy cover the ground in white-coloured quartz rocks that have been tumbled a bit to wear off the sharp edges, prevented from sinking into the dirt with white weedmat or some kind of durable pale-coloured matting that will allow for drainage. In the spring the ground should become a purply, pinky fruity-smelling mess, a celebration of the staining power of mulberries.

Are prosopagnosics over-represented among scientists, science graduates or among popularizers of science? If so, is this because they develop a skepticism about unconscious, intuitive ways of thinking that give instant insights, as a natural consequence of experiencing this type of thinking less often that other people do? Is this a motivation to seek and understand and advocate for the more deliberate, conscious and explicit ways of thinking and reasoning that make up the methods, processes and statistical techniques of science?

Is the Availability Heuristic partly to blame for common and inaccurate ideas about the nature and numbers of refugees coming to Australia, when news TV shows constantly depict refugees as crowds arriving on boats rather than modest numbers of people (relative to foreigners arriving with working visas) arriving by plane? I believe there is evidence that the visual depiction of information is more influential than written or abstract information, and news TV may be unwittingly generating misleading beliefs about refugees when they choose exciting and distinctive visuals of swarms of exotic people on crowded boats to make their news stories about refugees more attention-grabbing.

Is the Trolley Problem thought experiment relevant to the phenomenon of parents refusing to vaccinate their children? The Trolley Problem shows us that a minority of people express irrational reluctance to take an action that will kill a person in order to save the lives of a greater number of people. Obvious parallels can be pointed out between this situation and that of a parent who fears some aspect of vaccinations refusing to “harm” their child regardless of the benefits.

Can the normal mean score in a test be double-checked after it has been used in published studies by gathering up all of the data of the scores of control group or normal study participants who have been given the test, in a systematic search of the literature, and then pool this data and calculate an average score?

More ideas to follow………………

Advertisement featuring personification of an inanimate object

Wine advertisement featuring the personification of an inanimate object

Advertisement featuring the personification of an inanimate object

When I look at this ad I can’t help thinking about the letter Y. He is such a happy and friendly personality. Here he is playing with some dogs in a park:

Sculpture in a public place that looks like synaesthesia

The letter Y frolicks with two lavender-coloured dogs at Piney Lakes playground

Another sculpture of personified fast food

small sculpture of personified soft-serve ice cream cones at a new playground in Western Australia

Cool for Kids by Judith Forrest, located at Agora Village Square Park, Trinity. Alkimos, Western Australia

a playground at Trinity at Alkimos Western Australia
Playground at Agora Village Square Park, Trinity at Alkimos.

Macca's burger monster sculpture on drive-thru bollard

Burger monster sculpture on drive-thru bollard at a McDonalds restaurant

Scene at sunset from picnic seating at the playground at Agora Village Square Park, Trinity at Alkimos.

Scene at sunset from picnic seating at the playground at Agora Village Square Park, Trinity at Alkimos.

I don’t know what inspires a sculptor to create a work depicting a piece of fast food with human characteristics, but I think it does demonstrate how much the personification of things that aren’t persons is a ubiquitous part of human psychology, not only for those of us who naturally personify numbers and letters with one variation of synaesthesia. Judith Forrest might be horrified if I compare her work with those cute hamburgers with faces that decorate the tops of poles in the drive-thrus of McDonalds restaurants, but I will anyway. Another odd fact which I can’t explain is that this new playground isn’t the only one in the Perth metro area which features one or more sculptures of personified objects. The Piney Lakes Sensory Playground south of the river includes many striking and whimsical sculptures including some personified letters of the alphabet, which for me, a multi-synaesthete with ordinal-linguistic personification, have a special appeal. I think those sculptures might be the work of Anne Fine, and I’ve written about them in the past.

The inclusion of sculptures in a new playground is some indication of the level of quality of this new property development. I’ve spent many a happy hour supervising kids in WA playgrounds, but I think this small playground is the best example I’ve seen of bringing the beauty of the natural local landscape, flora and fauna into a park and playground area. This is an attractive, intelligently-made playspace with play equipment that kids genuinely enjoy, and recreational areas for families that are a pleasure to use. The only issue is a lack of toilets, but I guess that is because this park was created for local residents. If you sit still, tiny blue wrens can be seen darting about in the bushes of WA coastal native plants around the playground at sunset. I wish the Opportunity Playspace on Scenic Drive in Wanneroo (Rotary Park) was a bit more like this wonderful playground. I don’t know exactly who created the Agora Village Square Park, but I’d like to say you’ve done a top job.

Pareidolia at Sculptures by the Sea – our child clearly has an excellent left fusiform gyrus

Shipwreck by Steve Croquett at Sculpture by the Sea Cottesloe 2012

Shipwreck by Steve Croquett at Sculpture by the Sea Cottesloe 2012

I took our youngest with me when I visited this year’s Sculptures by the Sea at what is known to some locals as Cottesloe Main Beach. We had a wonderful time, and her favourite scuplture was the lounge room made of sandbags on the sea shore (Comfort Zone by Alessandra Rossi), but I think our child really got more fun out of playing with other kids with the sculpture Xing by Graeme Pattison. I would love to see some local government pruchase this sculpture for installation at a playground. As soon as she saw the Shipwreck sculpture by Steve Croquett our child identified it as two faces, not a shipwreck. This instant interpretation no surprise to me. Even as a baby our child has had an uncanny ability to detect visual patterns which are not apparent to others. I once noticed our child as a baby laughing at the calendar that was hanging in our kitchen. It was a freebie produced by our local council and it had a rather cheap attempt at art in it, in which a photo of faces was superimposed with some other image in a way that made the cheery faces rather hard to pick, but our little girl had noticed them. Our child was also quite gifted at spotting spiders all around the house which no one else noticed, even very small ones, very thin Daddy-long-legs spiders, and spiders way up on the ceiling. Our young one also loves to point out animal shapes in clouds, or in shapes found in natural objects, and I can always see the same thing when my attention is drawn to the shapes by our child. I suspect that our child’s interest and perhaps talent in identifying visual patterns might be genetically related to my unusual ability in face recognition. She has at times expressed observations that appear to be evidence of synaesthesia, which I experience and which runs in our family, but it is hard to know what to make of this as our child is young and some synesthesia researchers believe that all young children experience synaesthesia.

It appears that the term that is used for the ability to spot face-like visual patterns is pareidolia, but the definition of this term found in the Wikipedia isn’t really the same as what our child does. The Wikipedia defines pareidolia as a psychological phenomenon in which random or vague stimulus is perceived as significant. Our child doesn’t percieve the shapes as significant – our child percieves the shapes in non-face objects as resembling faces, but clearly understands that they are just resemblances, and there is no indication that our child thinks there is anything particularly significant about what is seen. The term pareidolia is also too general to define what our child does – our child notices patterns in visual stimuli to an unusual degree, but does not notice patterns in auditory stimuli to any unusual degree, as far as I can tell, but the term pareidolia appears to be not sepcific to any sensory mode. I would like to see a more specific term for identifying patterns in random or vague visual stimuli and an even more specific term for identifying faces in random or vague visual stimuli. I’m surprised that scientists haven’t already created terms for these things.

In January of this year an interesting  fMRI study exploring the relationship between pareidolia and face perception was published in the science journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. One of the authors of the study is from Dartmouth College and another is from MIT, two US universities where world-leading studies on face recognition are done. Two interesting articles about the study were also published in January, one at Wired magazine and the other at MIT News. To summarize the findings, the pattern of activations found in the left and the right fusiform gryri were interpreted as evidence that the left fusiform gyrus does the job of noticing face-like patterns in images, while the right fusiform gyrus also performed face processing, but did not duplicate the task done by the left, but instead performed the job of deciding whether or not a face-like image is in fact a real face. It is thought that these brain areas work together to interpret images. So it appears that the department of pareidolia in the brain is the left fusiform gyrus, while judgements about what is a real face are performed in a separate but similar and linked part of the brain. I think this arrangement will make sense to anyone who understands the processes that give rise to creativity and reflective thought. Different modes of thinking by different parts of the brain, in a series of stages, make up the process of intellectual creation. Turn-taking and specialization are features of this type of process, and it is no surprise to me that a most important part of the brain, the fusiform gyrus, also works in this way.

Sculptures by the Sea  http://www.sculpturebythesea.com/Home.aspx

Wikipedia. Pareidolia.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pareidolia

Brown, Mark How does your brain know when a face is really a face? Wired.co.uk January 10th 2012.  http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2012-01/10/face-perception

Trafton, Anne How does our brain know what is a face and what’s not? MIT News. January 9th 2012.  http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2011/face-perception-0109.html

Ming Meng, Tharian Cherian, Gaurav Singal, Pawan Sinha Lateralization of face processing in the human brain. Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Published online before print January 4, 2012. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2011.1784.   http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/early/2012/01/03/rspb.2011.1784.abstract

Another interesting sculpture at Piney Lakes Sensory Playground

Can letters of the alphabet be people? This lower-case letter E has ears, so I guess it must be true! This is a photo of another sculpture at Piney Lakes which could be interpreted as an exploration of the experience of ordinal linguistic personification synaesthesia. I’d like to make it clear that these sculptures are not my work, and I have no idea whether the artist who created these delightful works was a synesthete. My photos are a few years old, so be advised that they might not reflect how things currently are at this location.

I haven’t been to the Piney Lakes Sensory Playground for a few years, but as I remember it, it was a delightful playground for kids of a range of ages, and quite unique among Perth playgrounds because of it’s striking and amusing top-quality sculptures in a range of styles, many of them usable as play props, and it was also outstanding for the way that the landscape of the area is interesting and an adventure for younger kids and a play element in it’s own right. There was one of those big climbing-net things in the inner area of the playground, and a sand area and a fairly limited range of moving play equipment. Beyond the playground were some fake lakes with frogs (they sounded like tiny crinias, heard but not seen), bike paths and a boardwalk, and beyond the grassed area there was natural bushland surrounding the actual swampy small lake, which had a variety of interesting sculptures around it. This whole area could have changed since then. I hope it hasn’t.

The set of sculptures depicting letters of the alphabet at the Pinely Lakes playground are there as a word puzzle for the children to search for, so I guess one can assume that this was the only inspiration for their creation, and personification synaesthesia might have had nothing to do with it. Whatever the case, as a synaesthete who involuntarily sees letters as personified with characteristics such as genders and personalities, and also displaying bodily orientations and sometimes facial expressions and also their own colours (grapheme colour synaesthesia), I am charmed by the way that many of the letter sculptures at Piney Lakes are congruent with my own synaesthesia. The ears on the silvery lower case letter E sculpture are placed in just the right spot for the letter to depict something like a smiling face facing toward what I see as the right side of the text. This is how I see the letter E personified, but the silver colour is not congruent with my colour for the letter E. The letter Y at the playground is completely congruent with my synaesthesia, being bright yellow and of an active and playful disposition. I very much enjoy that colourful sculpture. There are two letter Ss at the playground, one in a colour that is the same as my letter S, but written backwards, the other delightfully psychedelic and imposing. The giant O is also pretty-much “the right colour”. You can see why I like this place so much! I think of it as “Synaesthesia Park”, a playground of the mind.

A silvery letter E with ears

A sculpture that looks like synaesthesia at Piney Lakes Sensory Playground

This sculpture is oddly congruent with my ordinal-linguistic personification synaesthesia and my grapheme-colour synaesthesia, because in this sculpture the letter Y is yellow and also appears to have a playful temperament. It’s a rather odd and enjoyable experience to view a whimsical piece of art that is a reflection of the idiosyncrasies of my mind.

Sculpture in a public place that looks like synaesthesia

The letter Y frolics with two lavender-coloured dogs at Piney Lakes playground

New scene memory enters my mind-archive

The other day I was doing some tedious household chore that involves manual dexterity, just the type of activity that typically triggers my fine-motor chore->visual memory of scene synaesthesia, a phenomenon which I have described in some other posts in this blog. For reasons that are unknown to me, the scenes evoked by this type of synaesthesia are typically scenes that I haven’t visited for years, and places that I don’t expect to revisit. It appears that the part of the brain that is atypically stimulated and activated by this type of synaesthesia is like an archive for memories of scenes of places that have been somehow categorized as places that I don’t expect that I’ll revisit much. I suspect that the brain somehow alters the way visual memories are stored according to expectations about how long the memory will need to last without being renewed with more recent viewing. I have found many studies that found that human expectations about the matter memorized can alter the way that the brain stores memories (see other posts for details), so it does seem possible that my brain might have a location within it that acts like the compactus or the stack of an academic library, storing memories of scenes rather than books.

The other day I noticed that I was briefly “seeing” in my mind’s eye a place that I hadn’t seen before during this type of synaesthesia experience. I “saw” scenes of a playground/park that I used to take kids to visit every month for a number of years, when we made monthly trips to a far suburb of Perth to take one of our kids to a club that they were a member of, which met monthly on weekends. This lovely playground was not far from the clubrooms, so it was a good place to fill in time with a young-one. It has been a couple of years since our child dropped out of the club, and we no longer go to that once-loved playground. Just the other day I mentioned the place and one of the kids said with a wistful tone in their voice “We never go there these days!” It appears that the period of time that it takes for a visual memory of a scene to enter my brain’s scene-archive is about the same period of time that it takes for a place to become forgotten and then wistfully missed if reminded of it. A couple of years, roughly. If you haven’t done something for a couple of years, you probably wont ever do it again. Life moves on.