Type-based associations in grapheme-color synaesthesia revealed by response time distribution analyses

Consciousness and Cognition 20 (4):1548-1557 (2011)
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Abstract

Determining the nature of binding in grapheme-color synaesthesia has consequences for understanding the neural basis of synaesthesia and visual awareness in general. We evaluated type- and token-based letter-color binding using a synaesthetic version of the object-reviewing paradigm. Although mean response times failed to reveal any significant differences between synaesthetes and control participants, RT analyses with ex-Gaussian distributions revealed that the response facilitation in the synaesthesia group reflected type representations exclusively, while response facilitation in the control group, who learned letter-color associations, was dominated by token representations. Thus, letter-color associations in associator synaesthetes are type-based, and do not involve binding to object tokens, consistent with their subjective reports. Contrary to recent studies that failed to find differences between synaesthetes and non-synaesthetes with behavioral measures, response time distribution analyses indicate that color sensations in synaesthetes are not simply the extreme form of normal letter-color associations, and cannot be attributed to demand characteristics

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