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Synaesthetic colours do not camouflage form in visual search

Gheri, C., Chopping, S. & Morgan, M. J. (2008). Synaesthetic colours do not camouflage form in visual search. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 275(1636), pp. 841-846. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2007.1457


One of the major issues in synaesthesia research is to identify the level of processing involved in the formation of the subjective colours experienced by synaesthetes: are they perceptual phenomena or are they due to memory and association learning? To address this question, we tested whether the colours reported by a group of grapheme-colour synaesthetes (previously studied in an functional magnetic resonance imaging experiment) influenced them in a visual search task. As well as using a condition where synaesthetic colours should have aided visual search, we introduced a condition where the colours experienced by synaesthetes would be expected to make them worse than controls. We found no evidence for differences between synaesthetes and normal controls, either when colours should have helped them or where they should have hindered. We conclude that the colours reported by our population of synaesthetes are not equivalent to perceptual signals, but arise at a cognitive level where they are unable to affect visual search.

Publication Type: Article
Publisher Keywords: synaesthesia; low-level sensory signals; psychophysics; functional magnetic resonance imaging
Subjects: R Medicine > RE Ophthalmology
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Optometry & Visual Sciences
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