Immediate transfer of synesthesia to a novel inducer

Document Type: 
Article
Article Type: 
Experimental
Disciplines: 
Psychology
Topics: 
Sensory Systems
Keywords: 
synesthesia, learning, Glagolitsa, Stroop test
Date of Issue: 
2009
Authors: 
Aleksandra Mroczko, Thomas Metzinger, Wolf Singer, Danko Nikolic
Journal/Publication Title: 
Journal of Vision
Volume: 
9
Issue Number: 
12
Page Range: 
1-8
Number of Pages: 
8
Publisher: 
Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology
Place of Publication: 
Rockville, MD, USA
ID number: 
ISSN 1534-7362
Official URL: 
http://journalofvision.org/9/12/25/
Publish status: 
Published
Abstract: 
In synesthesia, a certain stimulus (e.g. grapheme) is associated automatically and consistently with a stable perceptual-like experience (e.g. color). These associations are acquired in early childhood and remain robust throughout the lifetime. Synesthetic associations can transfer to novel inducers in adulthood as one learns a second language that uses another writing system. However, it is not known how long this transfer takes. We found that grapheme-color associations can transfer to novel graphemes after only a 10-minute writing exercise. Most subjects experienced synesthetic associations immediately after learning a new Glagolitic grapheme. Using a Stroop task, we provide objective evidence for the creation of novel associations between the newly learned graphemes and synesthetic colors. Also, these associations generalized to graphemes handwritten by another person. The fast learning process and the generalization suggest that synesthesia begins at the semantic level of representation with the activation of a certain concept (the inducer), which then, uniquely for the synesthetes, activates representations at the perceptual level (the concurrent). Thus, the results imply that synesthesia is a much more flexible and plastic phenomenon than has been believed until now.
AttachmentSize
Mroczko_et_al._(2009)_preprint.pdf272.45 KB