See What I’m Saying:

The Extraordinary Powers of our Five Senses



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March 24, 2010


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March 26, 2010

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March 24, 2010

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April 9, 2010

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April 10, 2010

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April 12, 2010

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April 24, 2010


Kirkus Reviews

An eye-opening look at the mechanics of sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. Rosenblum (Psychology/Univ. of California, Riverside) begins with a memorable scene, as he accompanies a troupe of bicyclists through a suburban street. All are blind. Like bats, they navigate through echolocation, making sounds and detecting their reflection from nearby objects. The author emphasizes that this requires no special gift. Following his instructions, readers with eyes shut will have no trouble sensing a wall; bicycling requires practice. As encouragement, he points out that an entire league of blind baseball players exists, assisted by bases and balls that emit sounds. Casting his net widely, Rosenblum interviews individuals with sensory skills (master sommeliers, film and architectural sound designers, professional tasters), those who have lost senses but adapted (blind artists, deaf lip readers) and, perhaps most important, scientists who work in this field. It turns out that no sense works in isolation (food eaten in the dark tastes bland), our bodies react to stimuli too faint to detect and practice not only makes perfect, it produces detectable changes in our brains, sometimes within hours. Readers will have to pay closer attention to the book's second half, which recounts an avalanche of sensory research, aided by new high-tech scanners that reveal an amazingly plastic brain whose local areas once assigned to specific senses routinely exchange responsibilities. We can see speech, hear shapes, touch flavor, taste odors and smell affection. Rosenblum's enthusiasm is contagious and his prose accessible, and he is mostly successful in explaining massive amounts of information about sensory abilities we take for granted.

Scientific American (Mind)

Here’s some advice for your next job interview: mimic your interviewer’s gestures and mannerisms. It may sound odd, but research suggests that people think highly of individuals who mimic them, even though they do not consciously notice the copycatting. Actually, you know what? Forget that I mentioned it—you’re probably going to do it anyway. As it turns out, we typically mimic people when we really want them to like us.

    This tendency to mimic—and to like being mimicked—stems from the fact that our senses and emotions are intimately and inextricably linked, argues Lawrence D. Rosenblum, a psychologist at the University of California, Riverside. In his new book Rosenblum provides hundreds of fascinating examples of the ways in which our sensory entanglements influence our daily lives and make us, well, us. Not only do our senses influence our emotions and perceptions—they also influence one another and can’t really be thought of as separate entities at all.

    Ever walked through the office reading a memo? You avoided colliding with the wall in part because you could hear where you were going. What happens if you eat with your eyes shut? Your meal will seem bland, because what we taste is so closely tied to what we see. And when you converse in a noisy crowd, you are really reading your friends’ lips rather than hearing what they are saying. “The long-held concept of the perceptual brain being composed of separate sense regions is being overturned,” Rosenblum writes. “Your brain seems designed around multisensory input, and much of it doesn’t care through which sense information comes.”

    See What I’m Saying will help you discover abilities you never knew you had, such as perceiving personalities from faces, assessing fertility in potential partners, and locating objects by sensing their vibrations, the way a spider does on its web. When you finally put the book down—which could take a while—you might start experiencing the world in a richer way.

New Scientist Magazine

The senses interact in fascinating and surprising ways – See What I'm Saying by Lawrence Rosenblum has some tales to tell you how

    Can you really see what I'm saying? In this entertaining book, perceptual psychologist Lawrence Rosenblum goes beyond this metaphorical catchphrase to show that everyone can and does.

    This is not a book about synaesthesia, nor one about super-senses that make individuals see the world in curious ways. Rather, it shows how the scope of everyone's perception is greater than we realise, thanks to the ways that senses reinforce one another, giving us a unified picture of everyday reality taken from multiple perspectives. While it makes for a fascinating read, the research Rosenblum draws on is not always new. For example, we have long known that hearing is strongly influenced by sight, and that hearing-impaired people are not alone in having lip-reading skills. We all lip-read to some extent when we strain to understand what others are saying at noisy cocktail parties, and even in private one-on-one conversations.

    Sight and sound are so tightly joined that even bad ventriloquists convince us that the dummy moving its lips is doing the talking. At the cinema, we likewise believe that dialogue comes from actors' mouths and ambient sounds from objects on the screen rather than the surrounding loudspeakers.

    Smell can also affect the gist of what we hear, biasing attitudes toward the speaker. Even scents we cannot consciously detect shade attitudes, judgements and overt behaviours.

In accessible language, Rosenblum guides us to novel first-hand experiences, then explains the science behind them. Particularly fun is when he puts himself under the microscope. I enjoyed following him as he rode with a group of blind mountain bikers led by Daniel Kish, who has been sightless since childhood. The bikers navigate complicated routes by clicking their tongues and listening to the reflected sounds, echolocating just as bats, whales and dolphins do - a skill anyone can learn, Rosenblum says. In fact, throughout the book he argues that anyone can improve the scope of all their senses through self-awareness and a little practice.

    Another excursion takes Rosenblum and his guests to a pitch-black restaurant where the diners discover that, without sight, every course tastes bland. However, I wish Rosenblum had explained that the links between colour, lightness and intensity are well understood by chefs as well as psychologists. For example, people think that a darkly tinted liquid tastes and smells stronger than a pale version of the same fluid, and wine buffs rating white wine that has been surreptitiously coloured red describe it in terms they would use when discussing red wine.

We think of the tongue as just a taste organ, but it is also loaded with touch receptors, making it an excellent brain-machine interface. An electrode grid laid on the tongue's surface can convey video input as patterns of touch that the brain perceives as visual attributes such as distance, shape, size and direction of movement. Little if any practice is required.

    Normally we think of the tongue as a taste organ, but it is also loaded with touch receptors

This kind of sensory substitution was originally developed to help people who are blind, but it boosts the range of sighted individuals too. For example, sonar signals fed into the grid allow divers to "see" in murky water, while infrared input to the tongue gives soldiers 360-degree night vision.

    See What I'm Saying demonstrates that the five senses do not travel along separate channels, but interact to a degree few scientists would have believed only a decade ago. After reading Rosenblum's captivating book, you will be surprised at how much your senses are capable of.

“This terrific book might have been subtitled, Tales of Perceptual Versatility! Combining extraordinary cases, classic studies and the latest reports from the laboratory, See What I'm Saying exposes the psychological dynamics of perception. With great charm, Lawrence Rosenblum describes the functions of five senses in noticing and knowing objects and events. His book treats these intricate phenomena in a deft and appealing way.”—Robert Remez, Professor of Psychology, Barnard College and Columbia University, American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellow

Scientific American Book of the Month Club

You are capable of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and feeling things with a level of sensitivity deeper than you probably realize. For proof, pick up See What I’m Saying. Lawrence Rosenblum shares cutting-edge research in perceptual psychology and brain science proving that our senses detect information previously thought only available to other species.
    In these pages we meet a blind man who uses his inborn sonar system to lead mountain bike expeditions. We also see how an expert lip reader is able to perceive speech as keenly as (and from a greater distance than) a hearing person; learn how an expert fisherman can judge the type, sex and age of a fish from the tug on his line; and find out how a connoisseur can taste the vintage of a fine wine.  While the scientific bases that permit many of these feats are still under investigation, researchers have exposed, for example, the role of neuroplasticity in some forms of sense perception: in one study, subjects were taught to differentiate two very similar chemical compounds that would smell identical to untrained noses. There is also a phenomenon called cross-model plasticity: once we’ve been in pitch blackness for 90 minutes or so, our sense of touch measurably improves—a change that is facilitated by our brain’s visual processing center.
Why do men with symmetrical bodies smell better to ovulating women? How are visually impaired people learning to “see” with their tongue, thanks to a device called a Tongue Display Unit? How do those with synesthesia perceive letters as having characteristic colors? You’ll read all about it and much more.  See What I’m Saying will open your eyes and ears and nose to the true power of human senses.

“This is the first book I’ve seen that expertly draws the non-scientist into the fascinating world of sensory experience and perception.  Until now, the popular science of sensation and perception has been less sexy than neuroscience, but See What I’m Saying will change that.  Rosenblum engages the reader with many lively personal experiences and stories of intriguing individuals and he does this while melding in lucidly explained hard science.”—Rachel Herz, Brown University Medical School, author of The Scent of Desire


Psychologist and researcher Rosenblum reports on recent advances in perceptual science that provide new insights into how our senses work. To cover the range of our extraordinary perceptual skills, he provides fascinating, concrete examples for each ability. Blind mountain bikers use hearing for guidance, creating clicking sounds with their mouths for navigation via batlike echolocation. “Beep Baseball” for the blind, with its beeping ball and bases, is yet another instance of not only directional skill but also how we “hear” the future with time-to-arrive auditory information. On to smell and the neurological process by which scents shape moods. Commercial applications of almost undetectable “environmental aromas” in casinos have been labeled subliminal manipulations by investigative journalists though aroma experts refute this, saying flowers cannot be accused of manipulation. Blind painters show that painting is more than a visual medium, while our “visual brain” helps us touch. So it goes in this appealing and compelling look at new findings about the powers of our less-conscious brain, the realm of the senses.

Library Journal

Blind mountain bikers who use batlike echolocation. A restaurant where diners eat in total darkness. People who can follow a scent trail across a lawn. Psychologist Rosenblum (Univ. of California, Riverside) describes in language accessible to lay readers a quirky collection of sensory wonders, which he then explains scientifically and also describes how to duplicate easily. His main neurological points are that the brain can adjust to new conditions throughout life via the concept of neuroplasticity and that the senses work together. VERDICT Fans of Steven Pinker's How the Mind Works will find a cousin in this science book for nonscientists. Followers with an interest in parapsychology and/or human potential movement ideas may also want to try out the you-can-do-these-at-home experiments. Bright teens might also get hooked—hint, hint, teachers and parents! [See Prepub Alert, LJ 11/1/09.]—Mary Ann Hughes, Shelton, WA