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Centre for Vision and Visual Cognition


Cross-sensory correspondences: Why lemons are fast and high-pitched, intelligent people are quick, bright, and sharp, and toads lower the pitch of their croak to get sex?

17th June 2011, 16:00 to 17:00, L47, Psychology Department, Dr. Peter Walker (Lancaster University)

Hidden within the idiosyncratic experiences reported by synaesthetes is a set of shared cross-sensory correspondences linking different dimensions of perceptual experience (e.g., brightness, size, weight, hardness, height, sharpness). In visual-hearing synaesthesia, for example, higher-pitched sounds tend to induce smaller and brighter visual images, and in visual-pain synaesthesia sharp pains are bright. The same correspondences have now been observed in those of us who are not synaesthetes, where their impact is proving to be pervasive and pronounced. The nature of the correspondences and how they impact on our behaviour is explored. But where does our sensitivity to the correspondences originate? Does it reflect an innate predisposition, or is it learned through exposure to language (e.g., the fact that light refers both to visual brightness and lightness in weight) and/or natural co-occurrences among perceptual features? The fact that 3-month-old infants are sensitive to two such correspondences raises the intriguing possibility that they reflect innate predispositions. 

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