Synesthesia: TED Talk by David Tammet

--Original published at Jessica K's College Blog

There are many manners of understanding that people have cultivated and theorized as generations go, how a person is able to perceive the world in such an alike but unique way. For us, that way of perception can be made into stories, paintings, poems, theories, inventions, just everything that has ever existed. And while the world is brought together by similar passions and dreams, there is always a rare case of thought that has yet to be properly explained.

In this case, a rarity of the mind is to view the world with a blend of two or more senses, much like the phrase “seeing sound and tasting color”, known as synesthesia. As David Tammet explains, there is a spectrum of synesthesia that can affect a small number of individuals, especially letting people properly explain what they see and understand on a daily basis. Tammet then puts up a series of paintings that he created himself, to show that he sees simple numbers as lines, dots, and even varying shapes and colors, one of the many ways to put synesthesia out for all the world to see.

Even if a condition as synesthesia is greatly unstudied and unknown, it would be great to follow Tammet’s example to see the world in his eyes, to describe every day in another light.

Bonus First Impression Post- Synesthesia

--Original published at Ben's PSY105 Blog

Listening to Daniel Tammet talk about how his mind functions offered me a new insight of a perspective I’ve never considered before. It never occurred to me that there were people who automatically interpret everything the way he does. It was extremely interesting to hear how digits appear to him, it really helped put into perspective for me how differently his mind functions. I feel like I’m the polar opposite of this style of thinking. I have never been able to see anything past its face value. I could never interpret poetry in English class, I was never able to create anything artistically. To me, everything in my head is a careful calculation that is presented precisely as its meant to be interpreted.

Tammet’s talk really helped paint a picture for me of how people can live their lives in such drastically different ways. I saw his perspective and it opened my mind to the endless different ways people can think and operate. It made me think about the idea that people can be “left-brained” or “right-brained”. Tammet would fall under the right brain category of this metaphor, since everything he sees has a deeper lying meaning. I feel like I cannot relate to that at all. I take everything at its surface meaning. For example, if an author was talking about the rain, I would only connect it to the weather, rather than symbolism for sadness or a somber mood. Tammet, on the other hand, can look at anything and feel like there’s a deeper meaning to it.

In my opinion, from what Tammet shared here, synesthesia can have both a positive and a negative impact on life. It allows the individual to feel more connected to things at levels that others can’t. When the mundane can be perceived effortlessly as something deeper, it adds a layer of beauty to life that can’t be seen otherwise. On the other hand, the deep level of perception will often result in overanalyzing nonimportant details. While there would be some pleasing experiences as a result of synesthesia, it will also be responsible for some bad times as well.


--Original published at Alex's Thoughts

After watching Mr. Tammet explain his experiences with synesthesia and demonstrate some of the perceptions he experiences to the audience, I was struck by how nonchalant he seemed about the entire experience. I’m sure that he is quite used to the effects of synesthesia at this point in his life, but I find the extra depth that his subjective experience has versus the average human to be remarkable. In experiencing life, the extra perceptions that accompany his normal existence seem to add more meaningful connections between himself and the world around him. For example, associating digits with shapes and colors not only seemed to increase his understanding of mathematics, but added an extra layer of beauty to a topic many would consider to be very dry. This personal experience of the topic would most likely allow the person to draw more connections to the topic, thereby learning it at a much easier rate than normal.

While synesthesia itself is not really an illness, as it has no ill effects, it is definitely not a normal experience for a human. I believe it to be a benefit based on what I know, as the ability to perceive our outside world through multiple senses, especially ones that would not normally be stimulated by the type of stimulus, would appear to only increase the meaningful connections a synesthesiac has to the world. As for the effect on day to day life, I believe that it would add another layer of beauty to the overall life experience. What most people would consider to be a long, boring list of numbers and names, a synesthesiac would see as a beautiful collage of a myriad of colors and shapes. Every type of weather could have a different taste, every type of novel could have its own color based on the tone. As such, synesthesia would appear to be a rare gift to a synesthesiac. Their experience and perception will always be so much more than anyone who is not one can ever begin to imagine.

I am quite glad that Mr. Tammet was able to concisely give a relative description of synesthesia, because the way he perceives the world is remarkable.

Sensation & Perception – TED Talk

--Original published at Zach Nawrocki's Blog

I found this TED Talk extremely interesting. I knew that some people could imagine words or numbers and represent them or correlate them with symbols or colors, but I never knew that is was called Synesthesia. I feel as though Daniel Tammet did a very good job at describing exactly what this disorder entails and how exactly he perceives the world around him. I have always wondered what it would be like to see numbers and perceive them as symbols or colors. From this video I learned that synesthesia is when multiple senses can communicate with each other and work together. Daniel Tammet did a good job at demonstrating the ability to see words as symbols by showing the audience how he perceives the number pie and the elaborate pictures that he makes using numbers. After watching this video, it is interesting to think about how everyone perceives life differently and two people can be looking at the same thing but be perceiving that object completely different from everyone else.

I believe that it would be both difficult and beneficial for someone that is living with this condition. I feel like it would be difficult because I feel as though it would be easy for someone to get a “sensory overload” when looking at a bunch of numbers or reading a book. Nevertheless, as he demonstrated in the video it could also be beneficial for him. He can do complex math in his head that most other people would need to use a calculator for, and he is also able to “feel” if a word has a happy or sad meaning. I find it very unique what he has, and it is both beneficial and difficult to live with depending on the situation he is in.

Chapter 6 Bonus Prompt-Synesthesia

--Original published at MaddieHinson

While I was watching the video of Daniel speaking, I was fairly confused throughout it. I was trying to think more analytically, than perceptually. Once he kept talking, I began to understand more of how his mind works, but obviously I can’t know exactly what that’s like. Hearing how another person views something is always an interesting experience, because sometimes it’s something that hasn’t even crossed my mind. In this case, it’s a whole new way of looking at the world, and I think it’s eye opening to see that people live with this condition.

I think it would be hard with all of the different connections going on through your head at once. It’s normally said, that when you make connections with something, you remember it better. However, in this case I think it could just be a little confusing at the least. It seems as though Daniel has learned how to embrace this part of him, and be successful doing it, which is great. I’m sure that growing up, it was probably frustrating learning, because teachers probably wouldn’t understand how his mind worked.

I do relate to him a little bit, when I’m watching movies. Usually, if there’s rain in a movie, I associate that with something sad, or if a woman wears a red dress, it means she’s usually trying to flirt. So I associate some things with emotions and make connections, but I know that’s only a small aspect as to what Daniel does day in and day out.

Can We Use Magic to Help People on the Autism Spectrum?

--Original published at Kaity Takes on Psychology

The entertainment industry has been utilizing magic as a means of providing mystique and fun to audiences for ages. However, according to researchers, magic could be used as a way to help individuals diagnosed with autism. Researchers speculate people with autism can benefit from watching and understanding what magicians do because of the social cues involved in performing magic tricks.

The videos associated with this post (found on the class blog) show a magic trick done by world renowned magicians Penn and Teller. The routine usually fools people, as we tend to focus more on the flourishes of the magicians rather than the execution of the trick itself. Scientists believe our brains omit details crucial to understanding the magic trick, and only focus on the special motions made by magicians. While the majority of the population might be fooled, those on the autism spectrum ignore the social cues and focus specifically on the magician’s hands.

I believe there could be a link between understanding magic and an individual with autism developing stronger social skills. My older sister was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, and I could see her benefiting from magic. On another note, I have heard of hypnosis being used as therapy for those on the autism spectrum. There seems to be many holistic methods for helping people with autism, yet using magic to teach rather than cure seems significantly more useful.

Sensation and Perception

--Original published at Jess Principe's Blog

By: Jess Principe

When I first started watching the TED Talk by Daniel Tammet, I had trouble following what Synesthesia was as he began explaining it, and I initially questioned what he was attempting to explain to us when giving his personal examples of living with Synesthesia. In particular, his vision of how he perceives numbers in a drawing-like format I simply could not wrap my head around. I find it extremely interesting that his mind operates this way due to the unique neurological connections that exist in his brain and the active communication between his senses. To be honest, when Daniel Tammet started providing examples for us of the math equation, Icelandic word, and poetry line to allow us to see how he perceives them, I could not comprehend how he was seeing them. The example I followed best was how he solved the math equation with the cubed block visual example. The question I was left with after learning about how he views those few examples in every day life is how strong have those senses always been, as in, when he was younger and was going through school, did his senses continually improve as he learned more, or has he always been able to make these connections so fluently?

I find his ability to see life this way extremely fascinating because it’s incredible that something so difficult for most to fully understand, is a natural instinct of people like Daniel Tammet. Connections made deeper than normal allows us to view the world differently through someone else’s unique perception. How I see it is people with Synesthesia are extremely aware because of how much additional communication there is going on between their senses compared to majority of man kind. This can represent that there is a deeper meaning in how we can view every day life. I feel you are at a genetic advantage if you have Synesthesia because the more cognitive maps a person can make in life, the better they understand, learn, and retain information. I feel this topic could relate to our memory unit that we just covered because if people like Daniel Tammet can make such strong visual and meaningful connections between what they see in every day life, the retrieval and memory encoding process for them may be extremely unique, fast, and more retainable than psychologists have previously observed throughout history. The TED Talk definitely convinced me that conditions like Synesthesia, represents that there truly is a deeper meaning in how one can view the connections seen in every day life, as well as the possibility that these connection could be limitless.

Synesthesia and Different Ways of Knowing

--Original published at Jill Distler's Psychology Blog

I found this TED talk extremely interesting, as I had never heard of the condition “Synesthesia”. I can only imagine that living with this condition would pose some interesting life challenges, especially in younger individuals. I feel that since individuals living with Synesthesia have activation of multiple senses, children developing an understanding of colors or numbers in early stages of their life may struggle in the early years of their education. I think it is very interesting how Tammet was inspired by Anton Checkhov’s notebook about his perception of the world and how Tammet translated that into how different kinds of perception create different kinds of knowing and understanding the environment that we as humans live in. I also loved that Tammet explained Synesthesia by creating and explaining examples so that people who have not ever experienced this disorder can picture how a suffering individuals go through their day-to-day lives. Tammet also uses the example of the Icelandic word, Hnugginn and asks his audience what emotion they believe the word has. The audience agrees with the general, non-Icelandic population that the word is “happy”, when they are actually wrong. Tammet theorizes that the general population believes this because of how language involves sounds that correspond with the personal experience of the listener. His talk also has sparked my interest in learning more about how words have colors, emotions, shapes and personalities for those who are living with Synesthesia but also if people who are not would be able to train their brains to think in this way.


--Original published at JanellesCollegeBlog

This video made me believe there is a lot more life has to offer than what we think about every day. It also made me think many objects or questions we encounter every day have much deeper meanings than we typically think about. The video made me realize there are always multiple ways to think of things, and it is beneficial to try to see the world in a different light.

I was surprised when I watched this video. I think what Daniel Tammet described and told about his condition was extremely interesting. Before watching this video, I had never heard of synesthesia. However, I did know what a savant was before watching this video. I found it interesting to learn about synesthesia through Daniel Tammet, a savant, who has the condition. I learned in the video synesthesia means there is an unusual amount of communication between a person’s senses. For example, if someone with this condition sees a number they may associate it with a certain color or shape, as Tammet demonstrated in the video.

I believe it would be hard for someone to live life normally with this condition. I think it would be hard to have so much information going through your head at once. Instead of just seeing a number, those with synesthesia may also see a color and shape. I believe this would be a lot of information to process. I think this condition could also be useful in everyday life. An example of this is when he explained how he came up with the answer to the math problem so easily. This condition allows the people with it to have a quick and easy way to think about things like this, which Tammet clearly demonstrated.

Bonus First Impression Prompt – Chapter 6 – Sensation & Perception

Hand writing on a notebook

The first impression post for this prompt is due Tuesday, 2/26, at 5pm. The refinement post is due Sunday, 3/3, at noon. These posts will be treated like any other blog posts; they are NOT extra credit. If you’re behind on posts, however, this is a great chance to catch up. Regardless of which prompt you choose, please use the tag “Sensation & Perception” on your post.

Option 1:

Synesthesia is a condition in which people’s perceptions of one sense activates another (for example hearing colors or seeing sounds). Watch Daniel Tammet explain his experience of synesthesia in a TED Talk entitled “Different Ways of Knowing.” Share your reactions to this video and discuss how you think this condition would affect someone’s day-to-day life.

Option 2:

Can we use magic to help people on the autism spectrum? This is actually a serious question. There is some evidence that people on the autism spectrum are less likely to be fooled by the slight of hand on which magicians rely. For this post, watch this video from the PBS show NOVA where neuroscientists work with magicians to understand how the way the brain processes visual information plays into magic. Then watch this brief clip also from NOVA about the potential for magic to give insight into or potential serve as treatment for autism and read this article from the LA Times about a new theory of autism as a “magical world” (the journal article upon which this story is about is available here). Share your reactions to these materials and discuss whether or not magic could be used to help those with autism.

I look forward to seeing what you write!

Header image: CC by Flickr user Caitlinator