Multisensory Consciousness and Synesthesia

In Rocco Gennaro (ed.), Routledge Handbook of Consciousness. Oxford: Routledge. pp. 322-336 (2020)
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This chapter distinguishes between two kinds of ordinary multisensory experience that go beyond mere co-consciousness of features (e.g., the experience that results from concurrently hearing a sound in the hallway and seeing the cup on the table). In one case, a sensory experience in one modality creates a perceptual demonstrative to whose referent qualities are attributed in another sensory modality. For example, when you hear someone speak, auditory experience attributes audible qualities to a seen event, a person’s speaking motions. The second kind of multisensory experience attributes features experienced in several sensory modalities to one and the same object via a process of amodal perceptual integration, i.e., integration that occurs separately from processing within the individual sensory modalities. Multisensory experiences arising from holding and seeing a tomato or from seeing the Indian curry boil and smelling it are examples of the second kind of multisensory experience. At the end of the chapter we look at synesthesia, a kind of atypical multisensory experience, and argue that one version of this phenomenon may be able to shed light on the neural mechanism underlying amodally integrated multisensory experience.

Author Profiles

Berit Brogaard
University of Miami
Elijah Chudnoff
University of Miami


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