September 15, 3pm, KL 232

Nathan Witthoft of Stanford University

Learning, memory, and synesthesia

People with color-grapheme synesthesia experience color when viewing written letters or numerals, usually with a particular color evoked by each grapheme. What it means for letters to ‘have’ colors includes seeing a color on the surface of the letter, or having a mental image of the color, or a very specific idea of what color is associated with the letter. In this talk I will present data showing that the role of learning in the development of letter-color associations is much greater than previously thought and argue that grapheme-color synesthesia should be characterized as a kind of conditioned mental imagery resulting from an interaction between genetics and the demands of learning sequences.

Brief bio:
Dr. Nathan Witthoft did his PhD at MIT working on the influence of experience on perception working with Lera Boroditsky. He is now a research associate at Stanford University with Kalanit Grill-Spector doing cognitive visual neuroscience. Witthoft is the author of several journal articles, including a recent paper in Psychological Sciences. He is an expert in perception, especially color perception and color-grapheme-synesthesia.