Monday, January 02, 2012

A quote from a brief article in the journal Science from 2005

"To see whether this form of synesthesia is at the heart of Tammet's talent, neuro-scientist Vilayanur Ramachandran and colleagues at the University of California, San Diego, gave the 26-year-old savant from Kent, Great Britain, a series of tests. The team now plans to investigate the multiplication skills of Tammet, who says he...."

What happened to these plans? Was there an investigation? If not, why not?

And I've just noticed an amusing detail in this article:

"This article reports that scientist Daniel Tammet has set the European record..."

Scientist? Really? I've also found a book published by the deplorable Jessica Kingsley Publishers in which Tammet was laughably described as a mathematician. People say blogs are self-published rubbish written by amateurs, but hey, there's a lot of crap in print, some of it in very prestigious science journals.

Holden, Constance (2005) Coloured memory. Science. April 22nd 2005 Vol. 308 Issue 5721, p.492. EBSCOHost Accession Number: 16911231


Laura said...

Someone seems to have confused "scientist" with "so-called savant".

Lili Marlene said...

Have you changed your mind about Tammet, Laura?

Laura said...

Somewhat. I believe he taught himself specific associations for numbers in order to do mental calculations and such. I think there has been less investigation into his linguistic skills, so the jury's still out on that one. Dr. Ramachandran seriously needs to conduct more research on Tammet's skills.
It would also be interesting to hear input from someone like his previous partner or younger brother. They would be able to tell us what Tammet was up to c. 2000-2001.

Lili Marlene said...

I fully agree with your suggestion that there are people whose first-hand knowledge of Tammet would be of interest to us.

I think there's reason enough be be sceptical about Tammet's language skills. For a start, compared with many of the other people who are in my list of "famous autistics" the number of languages that he is supposed to know is only moderately impressive. Ever heard of the right-wing UK politician Enoch Powell? Apparently he knew 12 languages and was reading Ancient Greek at age 5 and at one time was a Professor of Ancient Greek, if Wikipedia is to be believed. Powell is on my list. Some people just are ridiculously smart. The term for it isn't Asperger syndrome or savant syndrome, the name of this condition is intellectual giftedness.

Another hint that Tammet might not be the incredible language savant as hyped is that the researchers who wrote the 2011 book The Signs of a Savant (about a disabled language savant who is NOT Tammet) wrote about Tammet "“...we tested him on a variety of spoken languages...”, “He is reasonably fluent in Lithuanian, Spanish, Romanian, Esperanto and Welsh; he has some knowledge of French and German;...” Only "some knowledge" of French and German? Hmmmmm.

And there is no reason to be impressed by the bit in the "documentary" Brainman where Tammet goes to Iceland and a week later is speaking Icelandic with resaonable fluency, until someone can prove that Tammet hadn't privately studied Icelandic for a long time leading up to that visit to Iceland.

Laura said...

This link may provide useful to you. It is a message forum on a memory training site, including links to some of your posts as part of the discussion regarding skepticism about Tammet's claimed savantism.

Lili Marlene said...

Thanks Laura. THat's the best discussion of Tammet that I've seen on the internet.