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  • Long before Descartes famously declared, "I think, therefore I am,"

  • and long after that,

  • scientists and philosophers alike

  • have puzzled over what they call the mind-body problem.

  • Is the mind some separate, non-material entity piloting a machine of flesh?

  • Or if it's just a particularly elusive part of our physical body,

  • how can it translate the input of our animal senses

  • into the seemingly non-physical experiences that we call thoughts?

  • But though the answers have been debated endlessly,

  • new research suggests that part of the problem lies

  • in how we pose the question in the first place,

  • assuming a distinction between our sensory perception and our ideas

  • that may not really be there.

  • The traditional model of our mental function

  • has been that the senses provide separate data to our brain

  • which are then translated into the appropriate mental phenomena:

  • visual images into trees, auditory experiences into bird songs, and so on.

  • But occasionally, we have come across people

  • whose senses seem to mingle together, allowing them to hear colors,

  • or taste sounds.

  • Until recently, the common understanding was that this phenomenon,

  • called synesthesia,

  • was a direct connection between the parts of the brain

  • responsible for sensory stimuli such as

  • seeing the color yellow immediately upon hearing the tone of b flat.

  • But newer studies have shown that synesthesia

  • is actually mediated through our understanding

  • of the shapes, colors and sounds that our senses apprehend.

  • In order for the cross-sensory experiences to occur,

  • the higher level ideas and concepts that our minds associate

  • with the sensory input must be activated.

  • For example, this shape can be seen as either the letter "s" or the number "5"

  • and synesthetes associate each with different colors or sounds

  • based on how they interpret it

  • despite the purely visual stimulus remaining identical.

  • In another study, synesthetes created novel color associations

  • for unfamiliar letters after learning what the letters were.

  • So because it relies on a connection between ideas and senses,

  • this mental phenomenon underlying synesthesia

  • is known as ideasthesia.

  • Synesthesia only occurs in some people,

  • although it may be more common than previously thought.

  • But ideasthesia itself is a fundamental part of our lives.

  • Virtually all of us recognize the color red as warm and blue as cold.

  • Many would agree that bright colors, italic letters and thin lines

  • are high-pitched,

  • while earth tones are low-pitched.

  • And while many of these associations are acquired through cultural exposure,

  • others have been demonstrated even in infants and apes,

  • suggesting that at least some associations are inborn.

  • When asked to choose between two possible names for these shapes,

  • people from entirely different cultural and language backgrounds

  • overwhelmingly agree that "kiki" is the spiky star,

  • while "bouba" is the rounded blob,

  • both because of the sounds themselves and the shapes our mouths make

  • to produce them.

  • And this leads to even more associations

  • within a rich semantic network.

  • Kiki is described as nervous and clever,

  • while bouba is perceived as lazy and slow.

  • What all of this suggests is that our everyday experiences

  • of colors, sounds and other stimuli do not live on separate sensory islands

  • but are organized in a network of associations

  • similar to our language network.

  • This is what enables us to understand metaphors

  • even though they make no logical sense,

  • such as the comparison of snow to a white blanket,

  • based on the shared sensations of softness and lightness.

  • Ideasthesia may even be crucial to art,

  • which relies on a synthesis of the conceptual and the emotional.

  • In great art, idea and aesthesia enhance each other,

  • whether it's song lyrics combining perfectly with a melody,

  • the thematic content of a painting

  • heightened by its use of colors and brushstrokes,

  • or the well constructed plot of a novel

  • conveyed through perfectly crafted sentences.

  • Most importantly, the network of associations formed by ideasethesia

  • may not only be similar to our linguistic network

  • but may, in fact, be an integral part of it.

  • Rather than the traditional view,

  • where our senses first capture a collection of colors and shapes,

  • or some vibrations in the air,

  • and our mind then classifies them as a tree or a siren,

  • ideasthesia suggests that the two processes occur simultaneously.

  • Our sensory perceptions are shaped by our conceptual understanding of the world.

  • and the two are so connected that one cannot exist without the other.

  • If this model suggested by ideasthesia is accurate,

  • it may have major implications for some of the biggest

  • scientific and philosophical issues surrounding the study of mind.

  • Without a preexisting concept of self,

  • Descartes would not have had an "I" to attribute the thinking to.

  • And without a preexisting network of interrelated and distinct concepts,

  • our sensory experience of the world would be an undifferentiated mass

  • rather than the discrete objects we actually apprehend.

  • For science, the task is to find where this network lies,

  • how it is formed, and how it interacts with external stimuli.

  • For philosophy, the challenge is to rethink

  • what this new model of consciousness means for our understanding of our selves

  • and our relation to the world around us.

Long before Descartes famously declared, "I think, therefore I am,"

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TED-ED】イデアシンセシア:アイデアはどのように感じるか?- ダンコ・ニコリッチ (【TED-Ed】Ideasthesia: How do ideas feel? - Danko Nikolić)

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    稲葉白兎 に公開 2021 年 01 月 14 日
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