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Synaesthetic idiom formation

Posted: Thu Apr 21, 2005 11:30 am
by Garzo
A good friend of my is synaesthetic. Example: she looks at the horid swirls of greens and blues in my spare bedroom's curtains and says that they're in G minor! She has perfect pitch (or should that be a good eye for colour?) and relates musical pitch to colour: she sees a notes colour and hears a colours note.

Apparently, quite a lot of us are low-level synaesthetics, and we give abstract concepts a spatial or sensual dimension. Many people think of numbers as existing in space, or with colours.

Having been interested in synaesthesia for a while, I wonder how much language development is synaesthetic. Richard Cytowic ("The Man Who Tasted Shapes") suggests that language has to draw on synaesthesia to harness phonemes to language concepts. The experiment was to show people two shapes -- one rounded and bulbous, the other sharp and spiky -- and to ask which is Kiki and which is Booba. If you're not too perverse, you should have a curvy Booba and a sharp Kiki. The thought then continues not just to how words are sounded, but to how we form metaphors that are essentially synaesthetic -- "sharply dressed", "a loud tie", "bitter cold", "sweet music".

-- Garzo.

Posted: Thu Apr 21, 2005 12:36 pm
by Brazilian dude
It's funny you should mention synesthesia, today of all days. Yesterday my Portuguese professor mentioned encountering in a paper the word cinestésico (kinesthetic) where sinestésico (synesthetic) should have been. Just a note: both sound exactly the same in Portuguese.

Brazilian dude

Posted: Fri Apr 29, 2005 8:47 am
by anders
From the days that I still watched TV, I have a faint memory of one of the Adams family (Morticia?) being gifted in the synesthesia business.

Posted: Fri Apr 29, 2005 6:06 pm
by Apoclima
Just last night I was talking with a friend about Angelina Jolie (is she really dating Brad Pitt? And who cares?).

But I told my friend that I didn't find her attractive, not just because of her mouth, but because she didn't smell right.

I have mentioned this phenomenon elsewhere. I truly smell a woman from TV image, her photo or moving picture.

If a woman's image is particularly foul, it can even naseate me, if I feel an infatuation from an image (rarely these days) I smell something like a spicy rose.

No one understands it when I tell them.

Apo

Posted: Fri Apr 29, 2005 7:35 pm
by wquinette
And the problem with me is that numbers and letters have colors: isn't it so obvious for you that an 'A' is red, an 'E' is yellow or light-orange and a 'U' is purple ? Yes, but only if they're in lowecase, and this may change depending on the font used.

About the experiment in which people tend to relate Kiki with the spiky form and so on: wouldn't that be due to the fact that K and I are indeed spiky and sharp letters while b, o and a are rounded ? What could possibly be the result if you asked that question to children who aren't able to read or to people who are not familiar with the Latin alphabet ?

WQ

PS : Garzo, maybe your friend has a good ear for color.

Posted: Sat Apr 30, 2005 1:20 am
by Apoclima
WQ:
About the experiment in which people tend to relate Kiki with the spiky form and so on: wouldn't that be due to the fact that K and I are indeed spiky and sharp letters while b, o and a are rounded ? What could possibly be the result if you asked that question to children who aren't able to read or to people who are not familiar with the Latin alphabet ?


I don't think that it is about the letters!

I used to have a program (lost at the last computer crash) that changed sounds into musical notes, admittedly only about 70% accuracy and I did some fooling around with speech sounds. The stops "k" and "t" have a wide, quickly-changing range of harmonics and alot of dissonance, where as "p" has much less, and the voiced stops even less than "p". This may be because of the aspiration of the unvoiced stops. Among the vowels "i" (as in machine) shows the most dissonance and "o" and "oo" the least. I wish I could go back and look into this further.

That's what i remember! Non-scientific ramblings, I know!

Apo

Posted: Sat Apr 30, 2005 2:05 pm
by gailr
This was described in one of my psych classes as a disorder primarily afflicting those who abuse psychotropics. Official Conclusion: all synaesthesiacs are dope heads. Nice to see that's no longer the official prevailing belief. Here's a bit on Synaesthesia and Synaesthetic Metaphors. In my experience, this type of speech is quite disconcerting for extremely left-brained managers. :wink: And that is a pity, with all those spreadsheets (the sight of which always leaves an acrid taste in my mouth!) going to waste in this review on the studies Garzo introduced.

An excerpt from the American Synesthesia Association
Erica Goode wrote in the New York Times in September 1999, "Most people experience the sensory world as a place of orderly segregation. Sight, sound, smell, taste and touch are distinct and separate: A Beethoven symphony is not pink and azure; the name Angela does not taste like creamed spinach. Yet there are those for whom these basic rules of the senses do not seem to apply. They have a rare condition called Synesthesia, in which the customary boundaries between the senses appear to break down, sight mingling with sound, or taste with touch."


For our UK friends: Todays' Podcast: March 17, 2005 / If you are synaesthetic you smell a podcast? includes a link to UCL's Synaesthesia Research Group for some interesting information.
How Common is Synaesthesia? A Study at the London Science Musuem finds out.
As part of their ‘Live Science’ programme, researchers in our group tested over a thousand visitors to the London Science Museum in order to investigate the prevalence of synaesthesia in the general population. Full details of our results will be published in a scientific journal, although our preliminary results are very exciting. Our results clearly show that synaesthesia is an order of magnitude more common than was once previously believed. Our study specifically looked at coloured letters and numbers, although a number of the people tested also told us about other types of synaesthesia (often coloured days of the week).


Ah! Blue Monday, Ruby Tuesday...

gailr

Posted: Wed May 04, 2005 11:42 pm
by Stargzer
gailr wrote: . . . An excerpt from the American Synesthesia Association
Erica Goode wrote in the New York Times in September 1999, "Most people experience the sensory world as a place of orderly segregation. Sight, sound, smell, taste and touch are distinct and separate: A Beethoven symphony is not pink and azure; the name Angela does not taste like creamed spinach. Yet there are those for whom these basic rules of the senses do not seem to apply. They have a rare condition called Synesthesia, in which the customary boundaries between the senses appear to break down, sight mingling with sound, or taste with touch."

. . .


Sounds to me like someone has their wires crossed or shorted out somewhere, with sensors (eyes, nose, ears, taste, touch) feeding the wrong inputs on the processor (the brain), analagous to crossing the wires for the oil pressure sending unit and coolant temperature sensor in your car so the oil pressure feeds the temperature meter and vice versa. To me, this helps reinforce the idea that certain parts of the brain perform certain functions. Then again, maybe I've been around computers too long . . .

Ah! Blue Monday, Ruby Tuesday...

gailr


Who could hang a name on you? When you change with every new day, still I'm gonna miss you...

Posted: Wed May 04, 2005 11:54 pm
by tcward
Oh, no! One can be around computers too long?!?

I'm in trouble!

-Tim :P

Posted: Thu May 05, 2005 4:03 am
by anders
According to yesterday's Swedish magazine Illustrerad Vetenskap ("Illustrated Science"), 8/2005, psychologists at University College, London, have worked with a synesthetic woman, who sees colours surrounding wortds, things and people -- but only if they trigger her feelings.

The magazine speculates that this phenomenon might have given rise to the first "aura interpreters", who probably thought that the colours they obesrved aronud people were real.

Posted: Thu May 05, 2005 7:16 am
by tcward
Interesting, anders!

anders wrote:...the first "aura interpreters", who probably thought that the colours they obesrved aronud people were real.


Ah, but who's to say that simply because the majority cannot see, that the auras are not real?

-Tim

Posted: Thu May 05, 2005 5:19 pm
by anders
tcward wrote:Ah, but who's to say that simply because the majority cannot see, that the auras are not real?

Right. And you remind me of my theory that smoking doesn't cause cancer; it's just that people prone to lung cancer also have a gene that makes them easily addicted to smoking.

Posted: Thu May 05, 2005 6:50 pm
by tcward
I have often wondered the same thing!

-Tim :shock:

Posted: Thu May 05, 2005 7:18 pm
by Stargzer
Hmmmm. Smoking cures hams but not lung cancer. I guess all the germs that attack the ham must get cancer and die.

Oh, well. That's one addiction I'm glad I never had.

Posted: Sun May 08, 2005 8:44 pm
by Brazilian dude
Synesthesia?

This is what a reader wrote to Super Interessante, a widely read Brazilian magazine:

Em defesa do papa

Sobre a carta do Sr. Alan Ferreira, publicada na edição de abril, gostaria que ele soubesse que o papa João Paulo II ajudou a esfriar a guerra fria e derrotar ditaduras socialistas do leste europeu. Seu pontificado foi marcado por intensa atuação política, defesa da paz, dos direitos humanos, e críticas às injustiças e desigualdades promovidas pelo capitalismo. Portanto, Sr. Alan, meça suas palavras antes de torná-las públicas e estude mais história para não falar bobagens.

And here a very literal translation:

In defense of the pope

About Mr. Alan Ferreira's letter, published in the april issue, I would like him to know that the pope John Paul II helped cool the cold war and overthrow socialist dictatorships in Eastern Europe. His pontificate was marked by intense political acts, defense of peace, of human rights, and criticism to the injustices and inequalities promoted by capitalism. Therefore, Mr. Ferreira, measure your words before making them public and study history so you won't say any nonsense.

What do you think of esfriar a guerra fria, cool the cold war? I couldn't help smirking when I saw that.

Brazilian dude