• Miroslaw Sienkiewicz

Synaesthesia Honours Project: Synaesthesia vs Cross-modal illusions

Continuation from reading the book “Sensory Blending: On Synaesthesia and related phenomena” (Deroy, 2017).

Chapter: synaesthesia vs cross-modal illusions

There are two schools regarding synaesthesia. One says that it is a disordered condition described as controversial, mysterious and unbelievable. Other says that it is the heart of nearly any human cognitive achievement and can explain creativity and even origins of language itself.

Cross-sensory synaesthesia:

Another synaesthesia definition: “stimulation in one sensory or cognitive stream leads to associated experiences in a second, unstimulated stream.” Hubbard (2007: 193)

“Synaesthesia is a condition in which (p.48) stimulation in one sensory or cognitive stream involuntarily, or automatically, leads to associated internal or external (illusory or hallucinatory) experiences in a second unstimulated sensory or cognitive system.” Brogaard (2012)

Cross-modal illusions:

In this part of the chapter Deroy described examples of audio-visual illusions that are common for all of us. Ventriloquism is one of them where actor by changing tone of voice which makes illusion of coming from somewhere else like puppet. Cross-modal illusions may include space,time, numbers or sound to name a few examples. Even that it’s not the same as synaesthesia it may lead to conclusions that synesthetic effects are more widespread that we thought. Deroy suggest that studying this model of illusions may be more beneficial than studying only synaesthesia as cross-modal illusions are common across the population while synaesthesia is rare and because of nature of the phenomena, hard to study. At this point one could think that author is undermining her own book but it’s a good sign that researcher is conscious that other methods or studies may be more effective than blindly doing everything to prove that starting point of research is the one and only that must be defended. Anyway, the main focus of the book is not exactly the same as the one of my project so notes are taken but topic is much broader than what I’m trying to find out and experiment on.

While searching on cross-modal illusions on internet I found interesting slideshow called “Pseudo Haptic in Augmented Reality Environment Based on Touchscreen” (Chien-Hsu, ya-Hsin and Fong-Gong, 2015) about Augmented Reality where this topic is mentioned. It can be found here, slide number 5:


In this presentation authors suggest that cross-sensory interaction can be used in Augmented Reality Environment controlled by multi-touch device to create tactile illusion called pseudo-haptic (Pseudo-haptics, a form of haptic illusion exploiting the brain's capabilities and limitations (Bourlard, Pusch and Lecuyer, 2011)).

They came to the conclusion that it may be helpful in video games or virtual interface by enhance the effect of motion sensing and the depths of presence.

I can’t tell at this point how this may help me while working on VR implementation but it’s worth noted so I can go back to this topic if I will see such a necessity.


Bourlard, H., Pusch, A. and Lecuyer, A. (2011). Proceedings of the 13th international conference on multimodal interfaces. New York, NY: ACM, pp.57-64.

Brogaard, B. (2012). Color synesthesia. In Jameson, K. A., editor, Encyclopedia of Color Science and Technology, Cognition and Language. Springer, Dordrecht

Chien-Hsu, C., ya-Hsin, H. and Fong-Gong, W. (2015). Pseudo Haptic in Augmented Reality Environment Based on Touchscreen.

Hubbard, E. (2007). Neurophysiology of synesthesia. Current Psychiatry Reports, 9(3):193–9.


Deroy, O. (2017). Sensory blending. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp.16, 66.

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