Saturday, October 22, 2011

Still ferreting out more info about Tammet/Corney

I continue to collect and investigate and annotate and compile information in video, print and any available media on the subject of Daniel Tammet. So much garbage has been said and written about Daniel Tammet over the years! In this investigation I feel like a dumpster-diver trawling through a pile of rubbish looking for anything that is interesting or revealing, but not necessarily a thing of quality.

The handful of synaesthesia researchers and writers in the area of neuropsychology who have either not written about Daniel Tammet or have written with great caution on this subject are looking so much better in my eys than their colleagues who have jumped on the bandwagon and recycled questionable facts, but I am still disappointed that so little has been done by people who call themselves scientists to expose the full story of Daniel Tammet/Corney.

Daniel Tammet - The Boy with the Incredible Story (an excerpt with references from my famous synaesthetes list)


Anonymous said...

I think your excellent bio of Tammet could do with a bit more on his claimed calculation abilities. His claim to be able to "calculate without thinking" using synaesthesia is one of his more extraordinary claims.

There is some excellent stuff debunking his calculation performance here:

The calculations that Tammet has actually demonstrated are extremely limited - I have only seen evidence of him doing power multiplications (like 37 * 37 * 37 * 37) and long division. Based on the arguments in the paper, it's entirely plausible that he relies entirely on memory for his "calculation" performances, and can't actually do any complex calculations at all.

Mr Anon

Anonymous said...

In my post just now I claimed that I had not seen any evidence of him doing calculations other than power multiplications and long division. There is one particular source that claims otherwise; our friend Mr Baron-Cohen claims in his paper that Tammet "performs mathematical calculations at lightning speed, including multiplying six-digit numbers together".

However, there is no evidence that Baron-Cohen actually tested Tammet on this; I suspect that he is going on second hand reports of his abilities from the Brainman documentary team, and is misreporting Tammet's power multiplications (like 27 * 27 * 27 * 27 * 27 * 27) as six digit multiplication. Once again Baron-Cohen is making bold statements without providing proper evidence.

Lili Marlene said...

I've had a keen interest in synaesthesia for many years and have read countless personal anecdotes from syneasthetes, and I don't remember ever reading of a claim about synaesthesia enabling effortless calculation. You'd think if any degree of synaesthesia could aid maths ability in such a way that there would be a noticeable over-representation of maths brainiacs among synaesthetes, but if anything, I think researchers ahve found the opposite.

You suggested the idea that Tammet does his maths by memory and not number crunching. If such a thing were found to be true, autism might be cited as a reason, as it has been claimed (in one of his books I think) that Tammet can't do algebra supposedly because it is too abstract and autistics supposedly can't think in an abstract way. Some researchers have found that autistics do unexpectedly very well at one particular IQ test that has been described as a test of abstract thinking (Raven's), so I guess the definition of "abstract thinking" is a conveniently flexible thing.

You have taken a skeptical view of an unsupported claim from Prof. Baron-Cohen? Very wise! This whole affair has at its heart another incredible blunder by Baron-Cohen which has unfortunately probably influenced other researchers to believe stuff that isn't true. He should be tarred and feathered and run out of town!

Anonymous said...

A new line of investigation...

I found this snippet on Google (though can't access the original page at

"Daniel Tammet is a British prodigious Savant with exceptional ability of math and language. Daniel contacted KBC Media in the year 2001. Karen Ammond and her team told Daniel the best way to highlight his amazing capabilities to the world would be through a documentary, media and a book."

This suggests in 2001 - even before he had started his "Savant" story - Tammet had contacted a publicist, Karen Ammond, who had recommended a documentary, media appearances, and a book.

Then in 2004 he did his Pi recitation, followed remarkably quickly by the "Brainman" documentary which catapulted him to fame, lots of media appearances, and a book deal. And who was the producer of Brainman? A certain Karen Ammond, his publicist that he had been in contact with for years.

If what Ammond says is true, It's looking like Tammet was picked up by Ammond long, long, before the Pi record attempt, and that the record attempt and documentary were all part of a carefully conceived plan. This makes the scientists treating Tammet as an innocent savant plucked out of obscurity look even more foolish.

Mr Anon

Lili Marlene said...

I'd like to know your source of info that K. Ammond was the producer of the doco Brainman. I'm sure I've found info citing others as producers/directors, in fact, I'm rather puzzled at the conflicting info that I've found about the people behind the doco, as you can see by my annotations about it in my list of references about Tammet.

According to that excellent essay by R. Doerfler, the US and UK versions of that doco are different and have different titles, which makes life all the more confusing.

Lili Marlene said...

I'll try to find the time to check this latest info, but a plan by a PR person or a professional publicist is exactly what I expect to find behind the Tammet story. I've also had some interesting experiences in the past with a certain book publisher going to extraordinary lengths to manage the image of authors in its stable.

Lili Marlene said...

"If what Ammond says is true, It's looking like Tammet was picked up by Ammond long, long, before the Pi record attempt, and that the record attempt and documentary were all part of a carefully conceived plan. This makes the scientists treating Tammet as an innocent savant plucked out of obscurity look even more foolish."

Yes, they do look foolish, but on the other hand, it wasn't right for Tammet to omit to tell his full life story, as it appears he has done. There are plenty of journalists who look like complete idiots as well - I've found plenty of press stories about Tammet which portray Tammet's life before his Pi recitation as one of a fearful autistic recluse who had done nothing of note.

Lili Marlene said...

Just found an interesting detail - I tried Googling "brainman karen ammond" and got the Google Books page for an edition of the book Born on a Blue Day as a hit. It looks like she was thanked on the acknowledgements page of the US 2007 Free Press edition of this book as a person connected to the Brainman documentary, although this page isn't explicitly available to view, but in the earlier UK Hodder and Stoughton 2006 edition of this book that I have at hand, KA is NOT thanked in the acknowledgements pages, while others associated with that doco are. Was KA's role in Tammet's success deliberately kept from UK readers or deliberately not acknowledged earlier during Tammet's rise to fame?

Lili Marlene said...

Tammet is case study number 5 here:

Here is the IMDb page on Brainman that confirms that Ammond was an Associate Producer:

The joke is on us.

Anonymous said...

I noticed the detail about the dedication to Karen Ammond too - it's not in my UK edition.

The involvement of Karen Ammond helps explain something that I had always found odd. Why was it that a documentary about a British man produced by a small British production company was aired first in America, and only several months later under a different name in Britain? Similarly, why was he getting major publicity on the David Letterman show in the US before becoming all that well known in the UK? It makes a lot of sense that Karen Ammond, the US publicist, could have been behind all this.

While the involvement of a publicist is no great surprise to me, I was very surprised at the date of 2001 given. In 2001 Tammet was still trying to sell his memory improvement courses (as well as psychic readings and assorted other stuff); the first mention of him being a "savant" that I have seen is in late 2002 when he launched the Optimnem website.

Mr Anon