Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness 17

This week starts the 17th annual conference of the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness (ASSC 17). It will be held in San Diego, California, July 12-15, 2013. I will be involved in 2 poster presentations:

Joint action, joint consciousness: A psychological study of the interaction dynamics of intersubjective experience

Tom Froese, Hiroyuki Iizuka, Takashi Ikegami

P2-082, July 15th, 14.30 – 16.30

The study of social cognition in interactive settings is gaining in prominence, and second-person neuroscience has begun to reveal different neural mechanisms in contrast to passive spectator settings. We contribute to these developments with a psychological study of the effects of social interaction on consciousness. Pairs of adults controlled their avatars in a 1D virtual space and interacted with each other using nothing but a computer mouse and binary tactile feedback interface. They were instructed to avoid two distractor objects that only differed from the other’s avatar in their lack of responsive movement (one was static; the other precisely copied the avatar’s movements at a distance). They clicked to signal the experimenter when they felt to be interacting with the other’s avatar. We tested 18 teams (36 participants), each for 15 trials of one-minute duration. We thereby replicated the setup of Auvray et al. (2009), but with one crucial difference: we explicitly asked participants to help each other. We confirmed Auvray’s finding that participants clicked successfully (88% correct); additionally, our statistics indicated conscious recognition. The best strategies involved the development of interactions that required mutual participation for their realization, e.g. imitative turn-taking. We assessed the clarity of experience of the other’s presence with post-trial questionnaires, including a perceptual awareness scale and confidence ratings. Subjective clarity significantly correlated with objective clicking success. Moreover, highest scores were significantly correlated with each other and with joint success (indeed, clicks often happened nearly concurrently), indicating that intersubjective experience results from a co-creative process.

Synesthesia: Continuous or discrete? A study on the prevalence of number personification in Japan

Eiko Matsuda, Tom Froese, Hideya Kitamura, Kazuo Hiraki

P2-­062, July 15th, 14:30 ­‐ 16:30

Synesthesia is thought to be found in just a small percentage of people. For instance, number-color synesthesia is observed in only around 1% of the population (Simner et al., 2006). However, as additional types of cross-modal association are recognized as synesthesia, e.g. ordinal linguistic personification, a question arises regarding the evaluation of the overall degree of synesthesia. We hypothesized that some types of synesthesia could be continuous, and that weak forms could be found in general. In this research, we focused on number personification, which is regarded as a type of synesthesia because of its automaticity and consistency (Simner and Holenstein, 2007). We conducted an online questionnaire to study its prevalence in a population of Japanese students. We asked our 53 participants to choose personalities (gender, goodness, age and sociability) from given 3 choices (e.g. ‘male’, ‘female’, and ‘none’) for a randomized set of numbers. The test is repeated again after more than one month to calculate consistency. We expected that the population is divided into two distinct groups; synesthetes and non‐synesthetes; where synesthetes would consistently choose personality attributes, while non‐synesthetes would tend to answer inconsistently or choose ‘none’. However, the results show that a large number of non‐synesthetes also chose personal attributes, with a modest consistency level. This suggests that the population cannot be neatly divided into two distinct groups. We argue that synesthesia in general is not only found in a special subset of people, but weak forms of it are more prevalent than previously expected.


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