Synesthesia, as defined by the website Neuroscience for Kids, is “a condition in which one sense (for example, hearing) is simultaneously perceived as if by one or more additional senses such as sight. Another form of synesthesia joins objects such as letters, shapes, numbers or people’s names with a sensory perception such as smell, color or flavor.” There are several types of synesthesia, including grapheme-colour (the most common type, which associates colours with letters and numbers), Sound-to-Colour, Number Form, Personification, and Lexical-Gustatory (words have tastes). For an interesting in-depth discussion of each type, see SynesthesiaTest.org.
This topic is particularly fascinating for me because I’m a synesthete myself. I fall into the grapheme-colour associator category: numbers, letters, words, and names can have colours. (I also, from time to time, experience a little of the lexical-gustatory variety.) For me, as a grapheme-colour associator, the colours don’t appear to overlay letters or numbers, they might for someone who is a “projector”.
While I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have a synesthetic association with something, I had no term for the way in which my brain processes the world around me. I recall trying to verbalize, as a small child of three or four, my main three associations; my mother really had no more understanding of it than I.
It was only within the last year that I learned my colour associations and the rest had a name. I was exceptionally pleased/crazy with excitement to learn that not only was I not alone (I’ve met just one other synesthete), but now I had a term to explain myself.
Are you or someone you know a synesthete, too? What type? Please leave a comment below or tweet me with #SynesthetesUnite. Let’s swap stories!