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Jonathan Carriere, Kelly Malcolmson, Meghan Eller, Donna Kwan, Michael Reynolds, Daniel Smilek; Personifying inanimate objects in Synaesthesia. Journal of Vision 2007;7(9):532. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/7.9.532.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
We report a case study of an individual (TE) for whom inanimate objects, such as letters, numbers, simple shapes, and even furniture, are experienced as having richly detailed, personalities. TE reports that her object-personality pairings have been there for as long as she can remember, are stable over time, occur independent of her intentions, and that this is true even for novel objects. In these respects, her experiences denote synaesthesia. We show that TE's object-personality pairings are indeed consistent over time; she correctly recognized 91% of the personality attributes for familiar objects (3.4 SD greater than the control mean of 47%), and 80% of the attributes for novel objects (2.3 SD greater than the control mean of 57%), when presented with a selection of attributes previously provided for the same or other objects. A qualitative analysis of TE's personality descriptions revealed her personifications are extremely detailed and multidimensional, with familiar and novel objects differing in specific ways - familiar objects having more social characteristics than novel objects in particular. We also show that TE's visual attention can be biased by the emotional associations she has with personalities elicited by letters and numbers. In a free viewing task the valence of TE's object-personality associations had predicted effects on object fixation tendencies. On average, TE fixated negative objects less often than positive objects. She also demonstrated attentional capture by negative objects, fixating negative objects longer than positive objects. Controls showed no significant differences. These findings demonstrate that synaesthesia can involve complex personifications for inanimate objects, which can influence the degree of visual attention paid to those objects.
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