Foredrag / seminar
Are Synaesthetes Special?
Lecture by Associate Professor of Communication & Psychology Thomas Alrik Sørensen (Aalborg University)
Synaesthesia is a condition that affect an estimated four percent of the normal population. These people have one or more atypical sensory associations. This could be that letters or sounds have specific colours, or rare conditions where words have tastes. While the mechanisms are still not fully understood, a popular view is that people with synaesthesia possess an atypical wiring between brain areas established during development. However, instead of being the result of an abnormal development we propose that synaesthesia is the result of a more general mechanism, namely expertise. Firstly, while synaesthesia is rare, cross-modal correspondence (CMC) is a phenomenon which can be observed in the general public that have similarities to synaesthesia. CMC reflect the tendency to choose similar associations for otherwise unrelated categories (e.g., shapes-colours or fruits-speed). Secondly, there are several demonstrations that synaesthetic associations can be linked to environmental exposure (e.g., coloured letter fridge magnets). Thirdly, synaesthetic processing seem to modulate attention and memory very similar to expertise.
We have recently proposed a model for perception – the template tuning theory of perception (TTT; Brogaard & Sørensen, in press). While this model is inspired from literature on attention and perception, it also provides a plausible framework for understanding perceptual phenomena like synaesthesia. Finally, and more broadly, the TTT suggest that there is a high degree of individual variation in how each of us perceive and interpreted our surroundings.