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When "A" is not red but pink or yellow: How crossmodal and synaesthetic correspondences involve different cognitive strategies for non-synaesthetic French children

33.347, Sunday, 18-May, 8:30 am - 12:30 pm, Jacaranda Hall
Session: Multisensory processing: Visuo-auditory interactions

Marie-Margeride Garnier1,2, Jean-Michel Hupé2, Michèle Guidetti1; 1URI Octogone - EA4156 (Université de Toulouse, 31058 Toulouse), 2CNRS CERCO UMR 5549 (Centre de Recherche Cerveau et Cognition, Université de Toulouse & Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, 31300 Toulouse, France)

Recently, it has been suggested that synesthesia arises through mechanisms common to us all. Similarities were found between synesthesia and crossmodal correspondence; for instance, "A" tends to be red for both synesthetes and nonsynesthetes. Crossmodal and synesthetic correspondences could then be extremities of a single continuum. As adults, both synesthetes and non-synesthetes use cognitive strategies in colorletter pairing (e.g. based on order of elicitation or typicality of color terms). Synesthetic correspondences are created during childhood and are stable throughout life. If synesthesia really is an extreme form of the crossmodal correspondences found in the general population, we would expect non-synesthetic children to show signs of these cognitive strategies from an early stage, and for these strategies to be stable. Thus, the aim of this study was to test the continuum between crossmodal and synesthetic correspondences by investigating letter-color associations in non-synesthetic children ages 6, 7 and 8. Children had to write the entire alphabet in color. After 2-3 weeks they were given a surprise retest with the same instructions. Potential synesthetes (i.e. children that were more consistent over time than chance) were excluded from further analyses. We found that some pairings occurred more frequently than expected by chance, just as reported previously in adult synesthetes and non-synesthetes. However, unlike those studies, pairings differed across the 3 age groups and even changed within the same group from one session to the next. Furthermore, overall pairing patterns differed from those observed in English-speaking adults, and there were no correlations between these associations and any color or language regularity. Unlike synesthetic and non-synesthetic adults, children don’t use cognitive strategies to pair colors with letters. Nonetheless, we noticed a tendency for children to change their associations across time to more closely resemble adults’ associations. Cross-modal and synesthetic correspondences should therefore be studied separately.

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