Colourful language: U of T psychologists discover enhanced language learning in synesthetes

March 1, 2019 by Janice Liu

Tess Forest, a psychology PhD student in Amy Finn’s Learning and Neural Development Lab is lead author of a research paper on how synesthetes experience enhanced language learning. Synesthesia is a condition where individuals perceive stimulation through more than one sense (e.g. For example, musical notes may evoke colours in some) and grapheme-colour (GC) synesthesia, a condition in which individuals sense colours associated with letters and numbers. Many synesthetes (those with synesthesia) have said that their condition has enhanced their lives, and test results show that those who can identify patterns with more than one sense (such as through hearing and sight, for example) are better able to learn the pattern details. Tess’s paper describes research, led by U of T psychologists, that shows, for the first time, that grapheme-colour synesthesia provides a significant advantage in statistical learning which, in turn, is a critical aspect in language learning. The results also provides insight into how we learn, and how children and adults may learn differently. The paper was in the March 2019 edition of the journal Cognition and you can read more about the research and its methodology in the U of T’s Faculty of Arts & Science News.

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