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Synesthesia is a condition whereby sensory stimuli evoke unusual additional sensory perceptions and experiences, and can be identified through a visual search task. Grapheme-colour synesthetes have shown increased efficiency in visual search tasks, which some have hypothesized is a result of synesthetic colours drawing attention to the target stimulus, and have likened it to a weakened “pop-out” effect. Visual search has also been used to measure visuospatial attentional distribution, and findings from this method have supported the gradient model of attention, which proposes that cognitive resources are the most concentrated centrally in our visual field, and taper off, such that the perimeters of our visual field deploy fewer cognitive resources. In the first part of this study, an online pilot study was conducted to diagnose synesthetes using a consistency screening and questionnaire. No grapheme-color synesthetes were identified in this pilot. The second part of this study proposes two experiments, the first being an attempt to replicate the increased efficiency in visual search tasks demonstrated by synesthetes. The second experiment aims to identify the differences in attentional gradients between synesthetes and non-synesthetes in a covert circular version of visual search, across three trials types: physically incongruent, synesthetically incongruent, and congruent. Stimuli will be presented in circular arrays of varying eccentricities, and accurate performance on larger circles will reflect flatter attentional gradients. When performance is averaged across trials types, synesthetes are expected to exhibit superior performance and have flatter attentional gradients than non-synesthetes on this task.
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Ostbirk, Kirsten Helena, "The Differences in Visuospatial Attentional Distribution Between Synesthetes and Non-Synesthetes, Identified Through Covert Visual Search" (2020). Senior Projects Fall 2020. 19.
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