Synesthesia: The Colour of Sound and Symbols

Galen Schultz small
Galen Schultz
, Witness This Editor

An artist's impression of synesthesia (image: deviantart.com)

An artist’s impression of synesthesia (image: deviantart.com)

Do you see a colour in your head when you think of days of the week? What about when you hear different sounds? Are letters and numbers different colours to you when you think about them? If so, then you are one of the few with a rare (but special) condition called synesthesia.

Synesthesia

Synesthesia (image: en.wikipedia.org)

It’s natural to assume that the world looks the same to everyone. I have often pondered how other creatures see things. What would it be like to look through the eyes of a snake for example? What about a fish, a porcupine or a chameleon? What would it be like to see the world in only black and white?

Considering this, perhaps we take colour for granted. The world would be a very different place if we could not see blue skies and green grass and the kaleidoscope of colours that spring brings to bloom…

There are however those few people (roughly 1 in every 2000) who get more than their fair share of colour. Synesthesia is a unique condition where two or more of the senses get cross-wired. Some synesthetes (people with synesthesia) are even able to taste words and, in a sense, (pun intended) ‘feel’ colour.

What is it like to have synesthesia?

It can be argued that synesthesia aids creativity. A lot of well-known musicians for example are synesthetes, including Billy Joel, Tori Amos and Mary J. Blige. Many musicians with synesthesia can actually see colours emitting from different notes and sounds. Others argue that there are disadvantages to synesthesia.

There are a few ways to test whether you have synesthesia. If numbers, letters, days of the week etc. have colours, personalities or genders, for example, you may have synesthesia. Do you get a vivid sense of baby blue being gentle, naive and female for example? Here are a few more ways to tell if you have synesthesia.

How to tell if you have synesthesia

How to tell if you have synesthesia

Do you choose what the colors are when you associate them with numbers, letters, sounds, etc? If you do, you don’t have synesthesia (image: wikihow.com)

There is a more comprehensive synesthesia test you can take online to see if you’re a synesthete. But before you go! If you do have this colourful condition please do share your stories below; and know that you are not alone, and that your world is a more colourful place. 🙂

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