Synthetic Synesthesia: The Art of Remembering Numbers

October 9, 2015 at 11:43 am (Thinking) (, , , )

By associating numbers or letters with colours, you will be more likely to remember sequences of them and verify if there are mistakes in them. Who doesn’t want a better memory?

 I have synesthesia. Essentially this means that my brain has some extra wiring in it that makes it automatically associate colours with other stimuli. In my case, when I see or think of numbers, letters, or dates, my mind’s eye generate a colour that is static for those things. For example, when I see the number 7, I see a specific dull shade of blue that never changes over time. I also see colours when I interact with people, but that’s a bit less common as far as synesthesia cases go, and it certainly isn’t as useful as numbers and letters.

Why do you care about this? Because it offers a new and powerful memory technique, and I think it can be useful even if you don’t have synesthesia. Here’s how it works. Your brain is great at remembering places; humans have been doing this for a long time. Your brain is also good at identifying and remembering colours and textures. What your brain isn’t good at is remembering sequences of numbers and letters – we haven’t had consistent forms of written language for very long as a species.

My proposed trick is that when I am presented with a string of numbers, I will encode them into a sequence or grid of colours in my mind. Instead of remembering which number goes where in the sequence, my theory is that I will have an easier time remembering what colours in the sequence are warm vs cool, or light vs dark – essentially giving me additional tests to ensure I am correcting remembering the sequence.

Okay. That’s how it works, but how can you use it? Well, the brain is a magical piece of machinery; it can be reprogrammed and restructured with just the power of thought. Start by picking a specific colour for each number. The colours can be the same general colours as long as they are not consecutive, but should always be different shades.

For example, you could select the following mapping:

  1. Bright sky blue
  2. Dull, brick red
  3. Lemon yellow

And so on. Now is the part that requires effort: you have to constantly think about each number as being written in that colour. In your mind, pretend you are drawing these colours in crayons using their selected colours. Try some exercises on your computer by drawing numbers in MS Paint using these colours. When you do this, you are creating new associations in your brain that will eventually become second nature to you. The act of writing numbers with your associated colours will trigger something called the “generation effect” – the idea that you will remember things better if your brain “generates” the answer than if you were just reading it (Jacoby, 1978).

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Efforts Update: December 6, 2014. Psychoanalysis and Statistics

December 6, 2014 at 12:37 pm (Art, Rant, Teaching, Thinking) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Lately I’ve been reading a lot about the works of Carl G. Jung; a titan in the field of psychoanalysis, and psychology in general. I picked up one of his books on Amazon for my Kindle: The Theory of Psychoanalysis. I’ve been curious about his actual work and theories for some time as my prior research has shown that probably all personality analysis theories are derived from his writing.

The book is surprisingly well written and easy to understand. I’m still only 30% through the book right now, but he covers Freud’s theories and where the line of separation is from his own. He actually goes as far as to defend Freud’s more controversial theories on psycho-sexuality in children, although most of his frustration was clearly with the scientific community at the time. Apparently Freud had received responses that were more emotionally-driven than factually, however I think that this is understandable and even expected given the subject matter. I haven’t yet investigated Freud’s work and prior life to understand where his approaches came from, but there are only so many minutes in a day.

Getting back to Jung, I’ve also picked up the Kindle copy (text only) of his Red Book. He kept a secret book filled with notes, illustrations, and illuminations describing his self-analysis during a period where he wrestled with what he thought to be his own unconscious. I’ve only gotten through the biography chapter so far, but even that part sheds a LOT of light on why his work developed the way it did.

His artwork is extremely well done; he was an accomplished painter and you can see the influence of the Mayan and Inca art that he studied while he was in France. It actually reminds me of the Sharpie artwork created by one of my friends. He uses a similar style of geometric forms in his work as well.

Outside of the study of Jung’s work, I’ve also been spending a fair about of time studying statistics and the R programming language. Hosted on Coursera, there is a great course with video lectures created by the biostatistics lab at Johns Hopkins University. It’s coming along slowly because I’ve been bouncing between several courses to pick out the most interesting and immediately useful stuff, but they’re nicely done.

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Interdisciplinary interests

April 22, 2012 at 1:06 pm (Computer Science, Graphics, Programming) (, , , , , )

So since I’ve defended my thesis (and it’s been archived successfully), I’ve been trying to think of new interdisciplinary areas of application for computer science, graphics, and visualization. A few of my interests (among many) lie within psychology and forensic sciences, but being locked in the computer science field, it is difficult to network with experts of those fields. So if anybody happens to notice this post and is interested in toying with some ideas then fire me an email/reply.

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