Project

Synaesthesia as a Gateway to Enhanced Creativity: A Neuro-scientific Approach to Teaching Literature

Goal: 1. To perform a pilot study on the effects of synaesthetic training on literature students.
2. To provide a 50 sessions creative writing/poetry course to literature students using synaesthetic training strategies
3. To evaluate the role of positive reinforcements in synaesthetic training
4. To understand the role synaesthesia plays in enhancing memory
5. To assess the relationship between art, synaesthesia and creativity
6. To gauge the role of synaesthetic training in enhancing creative skills

The ultimate objective of this study thus is to enhance the overall abilities of the student through the multi-sensory and offer the findings from the course to the academic community to further research.

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Manu Mangattu
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In a recently published article authored by V. Ramachandran and D. Brang, we find a very illuminating explanation for the connection between creativity and synaesthesia:
However, the nature of the link between synesthesia and creativity (including metaphor) remains elusive given that synesthesia involves arbitrarily connecting two unrelated things (e.g., color and number), whereas there is a non- arbitrary conceptual connection between, say, Juliet and the sun (of Romeo and Juliet). One potential solution to this problem comes from realizing that any given word has only a finite set of associations (e.g., the sun is warm, nurturing, radiant, bright, etc.). The overlapping region among halos of associations between two words (e.g., Juliet and the sun; both are radiant, warm, and nurturing)—the basis of metaphor— exists in all of us but is larger and stronger in synesthesia as a result of the cross-activation gene; in this formulation synesthesia is not synonymous with metaphor, but only that the gene which produces synesthesia confers a propensity towards metaphor.
[…] In summary, synesthesia is a highly heritable phenomenon that is associated with numerous benefits to cognitive processing, potentially underscoring a basis for why this condition has survived evolutionary pressures. Research into synesthesia is now passing its bicentennial anniversary in science, and understanding both the mechanisms underlying the phenomenon and the reasons for its selection are finally at a point in which synesthesia can inform our understanding of cognitive and perceptual processes in the general population.
In sum, this research suggests that synesthesia, far from being a ‘‘fringe’’ phenomenon as formerly believed (or that it is purely ‘‘conceptual’’ or associative in nature), can give us vital clues toward understanding some of the physiological mechanisms underlying some of the most elusive yet cherished aspects of the human mind. (Brang and Ramachandran)
Evidence of the prevalence in the general population of common associations between shapes, colours and sounds is very strong, which suggests that these associations / mixtures or linkages among concepts, sounds, shapes and colours are produced from an unconscious level, since cognitive processes and language development were already present long before all that development in a collective unconscious, since man is man. This is demonstrated in some of the experiments on primates (similar to human relations) who display correspondences between colour and sound, as we can see, for example, in the research by Ludwig et al.
Further, if synesthesia is a mental aid for complex learning, then people with different language backgrounds should have different rates of synesthesia. Children who grew up hearing and speaking two languages from a very young age would have higher rates of synesthesia than those who either did not learn a second language or learned one later in life.
Cytowic (2000) argues that synesthesia takes place at a lower neural level than language-meaning associations. He suspects that language might be the reason why synesthesia is suppressed for most people: while synesthesia is an iconic way of connecting a concept to something else, language use is a symbolic way of doing the same thing. The second and more abstract way is usually preferred simply because it is used more often. However, it is also suspected that language use and synesthetic perception might be located in the same part of the brain, namely right next to each other in the left hemisphere (Beeli 2007), which might explain why most synesthetic experiences involve language. This fact might give a first clue why synesthesia could be used in language learning.
Various researchers are convinced that synesthesia can be used in language research (cf. Lehrer 2007), and some of them focus explicitly on synesthesia to explain and research complex psycholinguistic phenomena (cf. Simner 2007). Nelson (2006) points out that synesthesia is a process of connecting senses and literally ‘making sense’ of something, which is similar to learning and using languages. Thus, it can be expected that synesthesia can be a valuable tool not only for language research, but also for second language learning.
It is most important that learners are aware of synesthesia and its potential use for language learning. However, most people do not know about their synesthesia, and much less about the potential of using individualised ‘random’ colour schemes, so it can be useful if teachers point out this possibility to their students in a general way.
 
..And stay cool! Gloria,
My Art and Science Connection project may also be of interest.
I also coordinate the Hard-Science science fiction Zooms. 1st Sat each month.
If you're interested, here is info for this month's meeting...starts in a few minutes:
Coming to us from a galaxy near you,
Tucson Hard-Science SF Group proudly presents
SAT. July 3, 2021 9 AM/ Mtn. St Time
(Prof.) Bruce Bayly,
That Roving Man about Tucson formerly with “The Physics Bus” and Prof. of Mathematics @ Univ. of Arizona “On Raymond Z. Gallun, Best Almost Forgotten SF Writer (!)”
The Science Fiction Encyclopedia says of Gallun, that
“His style was rough-hewn, but he plotted his work with vigour and packed it with ideas, often decidedly original: from a very early date, many of his stories show an interest in Biology and Genetic Engineering not widely shared by his contemporaries. . . He pioneered the fictional use of concepts including body-Miniaturization, body-recording, the transfiguration of human volunteers into denizens of space, and much more.”
===
ZOOM ID number for SAT July 3, 2021 @ 9 AM (Arizona)
Meeting ID: 857 0904 5450
 
Thanks 😊 i will check. Please add manumangattu@gmail.com to your zoomer mailing list. Next first Saturday I will be there. Thanks
 
Manu Mangattu
added an update
In general, there are two forms of synesthesia: projective synesthesia and associative synesthesia. People who project will see actual colors, forms, or shapes when stimulated; associators will feel a very strong and involuntary connection between the stimulus and the sense that it triggers. For example, in the common form chromesthesia (sound to color) a projector may hear a trumpet and see an orange triangle in space while an associator might hear a trumpet and think very strongly that it sounds “orange”.
 
Manu Mangattu
added an update
While scientists have known about synaesthesia for 200 years, only recently have researchers – across the fields of psychology, neuroscience and psycholinguistics – been able to focus their attentions on what synaesthesia may be able to do for the non-synaesthetes in the population. There are strong indications to suggest that developing synaesthesia in the 96% of people who do not have it may help to improve their memory and learning skills. Dr Nicolas Rothen of the University of Sussex believes that focussing attention on developing synaesthesia among the non-synaesthetes may lead to interesting findings about cognitive function that can be applied to the general population: “Synaesthesia is a neat way to study differences in perception and their relation to higher cognitive functions such as memory and language processing” (Massy-Beresford). Discussing Synaesthesia as a psycholinguistic phenomenon, Simner says, “One thing we have found is that synaesthetes are not a different class of people – they simply have more explicit experiences. It's a more extreme manifestation of what all of us experience”. (Simner 2007).
Studies such as the one carried out by Dr Clare Jonas at the University of East London aim to take that link between synaesthetes and non-synaesthetes one step further, by training non-synaesthetes to have the same associations that synaesthetes have – and then assessing the impact their newly acquired synaesthesia has on their memory and cognitive function. "Synaesthesia is obviously useful to synaesthetes in some ways," says Jonas. "It would be really nice if we could find a way to give the useful bits of synaesthesia to people who don't have it" (Massy-Beresford).
Research is beginning to show that rather than being an abnormality, synesthesia underscores all memory processes. A richer synesthetic capacity often means a stronger, richer memory. Oral traditions that require extraordinary memory always employ synesthetic imagery.
When synesthesia is activated it is not a neural malfunction, but an expansion of our senses that we can activate through practice. As Stroop interference tests illustrate, to a certain degree, everyone experiences synaesthesia (De Young). As Cytowic points out, "Synesthesia is actually a normal brain function in every one of us, but that its workings reach conscious awareness in only a handful" (2000).
 
Manu Mangattu
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Manu Mangattu
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In The Creative Mind: Myths and Mechanisms, Margaret A. Boden argues that creativity is rooted in everyday abilities such as conceptual thinking, perception, and memory. Therefore, to some degree everyone is creative. Boden explains that there are three different types of creativity: the first involves making unfamiliar combination of familiar ideas; the second is exploration of conceptual spaces; and the third is transformation of conceptual spaces (Boden, 3-4). What makes some people more creative, then, is their ability to explore and transform their own ideas and mental processes. Many creative people have incorporated synesthesia into their work including, visual artists, Wassily Kandinsky, and Walt Disney, writer Charles Baudelaire, and composers Olivier Messaien, and Alexsander Nikolayevich Scriabin, who created the colour organ.
 
Manu Mangattu
added an update
The relationship between art and synaesthesia does not seem to be a simple coincidence (e.g., Berman, 1999; Hertz, 1999; van Campen, 2008). In literature, poetry, and the fine arts, synaesthesia has frequently been applied as a way of styling to transpose sensations – especially in symbolism– following the idea of synthesis and the unity of the arts (e.g., Galeyev, 1993; Nelson and Hitchon, 1999; van Campen and Froger, 1999). This has happened probably since synaesthesia is closely related to mental imagery, metaphor, analogy, and remote associations, synaesthetes often become artists (e.g., Rizzo and Eslinger, 1989; Martino and Marks, 2001; Ramachandran and Hubbard, 2001; Cazeaux, 2002; Seitz, 2005; Barnett and Newell, 2008; Spiller and Jansari, 2008; Brang and Ramachandran, 2010). Many researchers (e.g., Rich et al., 2005; Ward et al., 2008; Cawley, 2010) have pointed out that synaesthetes are more involved in artistic activities.
The prevalence of synaesthesia among creative artists is much higher than among the general population (Mulvenna and Walsh, 2005). Rothen and Meier (2010) revealed a prevalence of grapheme-colour synaesthesia of about 7% in a sample of art students by using the test–retest measure, whereas prevalence in the control sample was only about 2%. Their findings suggested that synaesthesia is more common among art students. Domino (1989) investigated the relationships between synaesthesia, creativity, and intelligence in a survey of 358 fine art students. The prevalence of synaesthesia was about 23% among art students.
 
Manu Mangattu
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Synaesthesia, in common parlance, can be defined as a rare capacity to experience one sense when another is stimulated: to see smells, hear colours, or even taste music. The term synesthesia is derived from the Greek words ‘syn’, which means union, and ‘aisthesis’ which means sensation and hence synaesthesia simply means a union of the senses. A person who experiences synaesthesia is known as a synesthete. The most common forms of synesthesia include grapheme-colour synesthesia and week-colour synesthesia. In grapheme-colour synesthesia, viewing or thinking about a letter or number written in black ink induces the experience of a certain colour. For week-colour synesthetes Monday might be brown, Tuesday red and Wednesday green. Today, the scientific community agrees that about 4% of the world population possess some kind of synaesthesia.
In neuroscience, synesthesia is defined as “the elicitation of perceptual experiences in the absence of the normal sensory stimulation” (Ward & Mattingley, 130). In the arts, synesthesia refers to a range of phenomena of simultaneous perception of two or more stimuli as one gestalt experience (van Campen 2007). Although the definition of synesthesia is very specific, pseudo-synaesthesia is seen frequently. It can occur unintentionally, as a result of learned associations, or intentionally, as in much literature, music, and art.
 
Manu Mangattu
added a project goal
1. To perform a pilot study on the effects of synaesthetic training on literature students.
2. To provide a 50 sessions creative writing/poetry course to literature students using synaesthetic training strategies
3. To evaluate the role of positive reinforcements in synaesthetic training
4. To understand the role synaesthesia plays in enhancing memory
5. To assess the relationship between art, synaesthesia and creativity
6. To gauge the role of synaesthetic training in enhancing creative skills
The ultimate objective of this study thus is to enhance the overall abilities of the student through the multi-sensory and offer the findings from the course to the academic community to further research.