Commonly Asked Questions about Synesthesia

Synesthesia - the linking of two or more senses, where the first sense elicits an automatic and involuntary response in the second sense - is a relatively recent neurological rediscovery made by Dr. Richard Cytowic in 1980.  Very little is widely known about this fascinating condition, and there are many inaccurate understandings about and portrayals of what synesthesia actually is. Because of this, many questions and stereotypes about synesthesia have arisen. The focus of this Hub, then, is to answer some of these recurring questions and dispel any misconceptions about such a unique and intriguing trait.

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General Questions About Syn


How do I know if I have synesthesia? A self-diagnosis is the best way to determine if you have synesthesia or not. Many doctors are not familiar with synesthesia, and even if they are, there isn't much they can do in the way of testing other than some brain scans to show what parts of the brain light up when a certain stimulus is provided. A self-diagnosis is easier, faster, and cheaper. Depending on the type of synesthesia, drawing a picture of the response might be easier than writing it down, so do whatever works best for you. However, here is a very common method for self-diagnosis.

  1. Ask yourself "Is this reaction involuntary and consistent?" This means that the reaction (ex. experience a white O) happens each time the stimulus (in this case, the O) occurs and happens without you thinking about it.
  2. Make note of your reactions. If you believe you have colored letters or numbers (known as graphemes), make a list of the graphemes and write your reactions to each one in as much detail as possible. If drawing a picture or something works better, do that instead.
  3. Put the list or picture away for a few weeks, make a new one, and then compare the two. If you have synesthesia, then almost all of your answers should be the same. If, in two weeks, white O was blazing orange, your green 5 was baby pink, or your purple spiral was a highlighter-yellow cube, then you most likely do not have synesthesia. If one or two changed somewhat but the vast majority stayed the same, then chances are good that you have synesthesia. This may be a tedious process, but it is the best way to diagnose yourself. Don't be in too much of a rush to pin down your reactions - they'll come with time.


Can I only have one type of synesthesia? While some do have only one type of synesthesia, synesthetes are not 'limited' to only having one syn-type. In fact, most synesthetes have more than one. For instance, someone may have just sound -> touch, but another person may have sound -> touch plus sound -> color, grapheme (letter, number) -> color, and concept (numbers, years, movie genres...) -> sight. There are more types and sub-types of synesthesia than one might first think, too. Sound -> touch seems pretty specific, right? Well, what about sound -> texture? Sound -> temperature? How about a chain response such as sound -> texture -> color (where the texture response elicits a second synesthetic response, which is color)?


Can I get synesthesia if I don't have it? No, you can't, although in rare cases head injuries can cause synesthesia. Also, drugs like LSD can cause synesthetic-like reactions. However, drug-induced synesthetic reactions are not true synesthesia, and under no circumstances should you do drugs or try to hurt yourself in any way, shape, or form to gain synesthesia.


Can I lose synesthesia if I have it? Sometimes head injuries can make one temporarily or permanently lose his or her synesthesia.Other times conditions such as high levels of stress or depression can cause synesthesia to temporarily disappear; once that stress, depression, and so on is gone, then synesthesia usually returns to normal.


Can my responses change? Yes, sometimes they can; however, the changes would most likely be subtle, slow changes rather than sudden, obvious ones. So, a V might be dark grey, but dark green may slowly begin to creep up from the bottom to the middle towards the top, until the V is all dark green or a mix of grey and green. It is highly unlikely that a white 0 will suddenly turn bright red. When first discovering a certain type of synesthesia, figuring out what responses occur for what triggers can lead to a shifting of colors. One letter might seem to be a bright ice blue, but, as one starts to really pin down what each letter color truly is, the letter might turn out to be a dark grey. Other than during this initial discovery phase, though, synesthetic responses rarely change, and too much frequent fluctuation in synesthetic responses can mean the responses are not truly synesthetic.


What if I don't see my responses out in front of me? Am I still a synesthete? Absolutely! Seeing responses out in front of you, perhaps on a screen or as a cloud of color, is called projected synesthesia, and you would be a projector. If you see a response in your mind's eye (that is, in your head, just like when you would recall a memory), then that is called associated synesthesia, and you would be an associator. Both associated and projected synesthesia are real and equally valid types of synesthesia.

Can you turn responses off or on? Responses are involuntary and automatic and thus cannot be turned off. A synesthete will always see the same letter as the same color or see the same shape to the same car alarm sound. He cannot decide: 'Today I'm not going to feel that annoying jab in my left side when that dog howls, but I guess I can live with it tomorrow.' With a lot of practice, however, some synesthetes can tune out certain responses. This is a particularly common thing students do to help them concentrate more. For example, a girl might learn to 'tune out' the color of her teacher's voice so she can focus on the lesson. This is the same concept as tuning out a loud conversation behind you so you can focus on watching TV. The color of the teacher's voice is still there, just like the conversation is still going on behind you, but, like the conversation, the color is tuned out. This is as close to 'turning off' a response as can be reached.


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Is it a disability? In the sense of being incapacitated by synesthetic responses, generally the answer is no. Most synesthetes find their responses great or just simply normal. There are certain circumstances when responses are unpleasant, overwhelming, or distracting to the synesthete, and it is these responses that, at times, can be incapacitating. For example, a synesthete may not be able to be in a crowded room without being overwhelmed with response after response after response; or another synesthete may not be able to listen to the radio, talk, and drive at the same time because all the sounds could literally be clouding their vision. However, many synesthetes learn to "tune out" unpleasant or distracting responses, much like one would tune out the radio while trying to type a paper.


Is it a disease? Can I catch it? No, it is not a disease and cannot be caught. It is a genetic trait often passed down in families, much like eye color or hair color are passed down from parent to child. For more on this, visit Dr. Cytowic's site; he has many great books on the topic.


Is synesthesia related to a specific disease, disorder, etc? No. Synesthesia is a trait one is born with where two or more (typically just two) senses mix. It has been documented as running in families, where (for example) grandmother, daughter, granddaughter and grandson all have some form(s) of synesthesia.. For more on this, visit Dr. Cytowic's site.


Is synesthesia genetic? Though the specific gene for synesthesia has not been discovered, synesthesia tends to run in families and is believed to be a genetic trait. If you have synesthesia, chances are someone else in your family has it and doesn't even know! For more on this, visit Dr. Cytowic's site.


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Statistics, Misconceptions, and Generalizations about Synees


How many people actually have this? There is no accurate number. It ranges from 1 in 200 to 1 in 23, with Dr. Richard Cytowic supporting this last number. (Cytowic.net) Reasons for this discrepancy could include ways of gaining information, types of people responding to interviews, and so on. For example, women are more likely than men to discuss something as personal as synesthesia. An internet survey would attract the attention of those already interested in synesthesia and those willing to speak up about it. Many synesthetes say that when they mentioned something about their synesthesia as children, they were not believed or they were mocked, and this can lead to these people keeping quiet about their synesthesia for decades. In short, there are a variety of factors involved in gaining these numbers, but the rough estimates are between 1 in 23 and 1 in 200.


I've heard that synesthetes are typically female, artistic, left-handed, bad at math, and have no sense of direction. Is that true? Many people just learning about synesthesia will take these for fact. Yes, there may be an artistic, left-handed female synesthete, but that doesn't mean all synesthetes have these characteristics. The fact is that most of these are probably not very accurate; it is very likely that there are a ton of synesthetes who just haven't spoken up about their synesthesia, which can cause inaccurate results (see the question above for more on this).


Are synesthetes making this up for attention? What if I don't believe the synesthete? What if non-synesthetes don't believe me? Unfortunately, there are people who will pretend to have synesthesia for attention. However, for an overwhelming majority, this is not the case. If someone claims to have synesthesia, they most likely do and should be listened to respectfully and with an open mind. Synesthesia is something very personal, and it can be difficult for some synesthetes to work up the courage to mention it, even to someone they trust like a parent or best friend. To spend months working up the courage to share something so personal only to be disbelieved or laughed at does nothing to help the synesthete. If you find yourself in a situation where you don't believe someone who claims to have synesthesia, please be considerate of their feelings and how much it might have taken for them to open up about it.

If you find yourself being disbelieved by someone to whom you just confided in, try not to get discouraged. There could be many reasons for the person to be skeptical, so ask them why they don't believe you. If they want scientific evidence, print off some articles or introduce them to a book on synesthesia. If they believe the science, but want proof of your synesthesia, get them to test you by making lists and comparing them. (See "Is it my imagination or do I have synesthesia?" or more on testing for synesthesia.) In the end, there may be some people who still will not believe you, but with scientific research and your own tests to back up your claims, most people will believe you. Some may even be jealous! Just remember - never let another's disbelief make you doubt yourself. You know your synesthesia is real, and, ultimately, that's what matters.



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Comments 79 comments

Dominic 5 years ago

how does one (with synesthesia) practice of train suc a gift?


Dominic 5 years ago

What does it mean if you dont physically "see" colors or "clouds" or what not but all the "symptoms" or traits for synesthesia match you perfectly?


'Lisha Danae profile image

'Lisha Danae 5 years ago Author

Dominic: I'm not sure 'practice' or 'train' is the best word to use. 'Strengthen' is more appropriate. The only real thing a synesthete can do to strengthen their synesthesia is to pay more attention to it. For example, paying attention to my pain-sight synesthesia has helped me notice it more.

Not physically seeing synesthetic responses but still having synesthetic responses means that you are an associator. I am an associator, so I don't see any of my responses around me, out in front of me, or anywhere in the real, physical world. All my responses are in my "mind's eye".

One more quick thing: In your second question you mention "symptoms" or traits of synesthesia. I suggest using the word 'traits' because 'symptoms' makes synesthesia seem like a disease or something undesirable, and most (if not all) of the synesthetes I know do not appreciate this commonly held idea because synesthesia is a gift, like you said in your first question, and is not a disease or something we want to be rid of. I just thought I'd mention that. Thank you for your questions! I'm more than happy to answer any others you may have.


Elise 4 years ago

I have synesthesia.... I'm 12 yrs old and have sometimes gotten the feeling that when I tell people about it (though I'm not shy about it) sometimes they are just humoring me and don't really believe me. I have gotten the feeling that they may want to confront me about making it up for attention, though no one has so far. Do you have any suggestions for what I should say if they do? Thanks


'Lisha Danae profile image

'Lisha Danae 4 years ago Author

Elise: That's always a tough situation, and the feelings that go along with it are certainly disheartening. How you deal with the people and situations depends on who you are speaking to, but here are a few ideas that I have.

I would suggest, first, sticking with telling people you are close to. That is, tell your family and your good friends, not that acquaintance you sit by in math class or anything. People who are close to you and who know you better are likely to know that you aren't making this up for attention. Of course, I say this with caution, because synesthesia is such a foreign idea to most people that it can make even family members question you. So I recommend this second option.

If family and friends are having a difficult time believing that synesthesia is real or that you have it, print out articles or point them to books or websites (scientific, of course) that explain synesthesia. Reading from a respected scientist or scientific journal that synesthesia does exist will make them more likely to believe that you have it.

Along these same lines, if they still don't believe you after these articles, you can get them to test you on your synesthesia. Take the synesthesia battery or create comparative lists about your syn types. (More about that in my other article "Is it just my imagination or do I have synesthesia?") This will take a bit longer, of course, but that plus the scientific support should help a lot.

Giving a class presentation as a way to introduce the idea to people is also a good idea. For example, if you get up in front of a science class and talk about synesthesia, you'll be using all the scientific books and articles as support. You could start or end by asking people if they hear colors, read in color, taste shapes, and so on. And then you could add in at the end that you have synesthesia. By building up support in that way, you can introduce the topic more easily.

This is never an easy thing to do, and I'm afraid you'll likely always have someone who doubts you, even if they believe the science. But you'll figure out a way to tell people that works for you. And don't let the people who doubt you keep you from believing in your own synesthesia because it's such a wonderful gift to have. I hope this helps you. Good luck!


Caroline 4 years ago

Hello,

My boyfriends recently told me he thinks he's synesthetic. I didn't really know anything about it, so I'm documenting myself because I'd like to know if it's true.

He is a talented musician, he has a very good memory and he frequently suffers from migraine attacks (I read that people with synthesia tend to have that).

Then again, he's a bit of a hypochondriac so it's possible that he read about it and started to imagine having it. I'd like to believe him but I can't help wondering. Is it possible to test him on that? I found tests but they are all so vague.


'Lisha Danae profile image

'Lisha Danae 4 years ago Author

Caroline: I understand your skepticism. When I first found out about my grapheme-color syn, both my parents believed me. But as I did more research and discovered I had other types, too, my mother said maybe I was overly excited about this and was just imagining the other types. (I wasn't.)

Before I address your question, I'd like to mention one thing quickly. While it is true that many synesthetes I've talked to are good at art or have good memories, are bad at math or can't get directions correct, these generalizations are just that - generalizations (I hesitate to say stereotypes.) They are not markers for having synesthesia. I, for one, am not terrible at math, I'm a decent musician, and, at least as a kid, I had a good memory (but that's questionable now.) So I fit some of the generalizations and not others, but I definitely have synesthesia. I suppose the point I'm trying to make is don't use those unrelated commonalities to determine the legitimacy of someone's synesthesia.

Now to the question at had. Yes, it is possible to test him on his synesthesia, though this will certainly take some time - and I mean months. My article "Is it my imagination or do I have synesthesia?" lists some ways to test synesthetic responses, so I suggest reading that for more details. In brief, there are two general ways to test for synesthesia. The Synesthesia Battery (link in the other article) takes a good chunk of time out of your day, and while it certainly has its flaws (there is no way for it to cover all possible responses), it is a good measure for consistency and accuracy. If you want a number behind your boyfriend's claims, this will give you a percentage (or something) for accuracy and consistency that will "say" whether or not he is likely synesthetic.

Another way is to make lists of your boyfriend's responses. I don't know what type(s) he thinks he has, so I'll use mine as an example. For my grapheme-color syn, I wrote the alphabet and numbers out, then wrote down what colors I thought they were, being as specific as possible. I also got opened a word document and colored the letters as closely as I could to their correct colors. Weeks or months later, without looking at the old lists, I did the same thing again, then compared them. Having one or two letters that are slightly different is not a problem, so long as the majority of responses are the same. For example, my I changed from a bright ice blue to a light grey (dark grey for lowercase), and this was because I had not been able to accurately pin down an exact color for the letter I. Once the 'newness' of my synesthesia wore off and I didn't focus too hard on it, I could tell what color it was. Anyway, almost all my letters and numbers were the same, so I determined that I had synesthesia.

I could say more on this, particularly if I knew what syn types your boyfriend thinks he has, but I suggest you check out my other article for more on testing for synesthesia. Please feel free to contact me directly if you have more questions or don't wish to post certain information in the comments section.


dragupine 4 years ago

I think i have synesthesia but im not sure. i took a short synesthesia test and it said i had a "mild case". for me, letters and numbers have personalities and names have colors but no other words. is this legit or is it all in my head (no pun intended)


'Lisha Danae profile image

'Lisha Danae 4 years ago Author

dragupine: Really, only you can tell for sure if you have synesthesia or not. Keep testing yourself if you're not sure. Or at least keep mental checklists (which is what I do). From what little you've said, it sounds like you probably have syn. Letters and numbers (graphemes)having personalities is called Ordinal Linguistic Personification, or OLP for short. Names having color is also a form of synesthesia, but which type all depends on what the stimulus for the names is. That is, do you get colors for names when you hear them (sound-color syn), read them (grapheme-color syn), or think about them (possibly concept-color syn, but don't quote me on that one). All are legitimate types of synesthesia. I'd have to hear a bit more to say anything more specific about that.

I will say that you don't have to have a bunch of syn-types or a ton of responses WITHIN one syn-type to have synesthesia. Some people only have, for example, sound-color synesthesia but nothing else. Others have only half of their letters and numbers colored, and it is still synesthesia. Each synesthete's types and responses are unique - some people have only a few responses for a few types while others have several responses for several types. All are wonderful and unique. And who knows - you might discover you have more than those two syn-types. I know I found out I did a few months after I found out about my synesthesia because I hadn't been paying attention before. So keep an eye out, but don't get disappointed if no more syn-types show up because you're already blessed with the two types of synesthesia you already have.


dragupine 4 years ago

thanks. i have another question. is it likely that two of my classmates also have synesthesia of sorts? two of them say that numbers and letters have personalities and experiencing synesthesia myself, i'm inclined to believe them but looking at the stats it seems highly suspicious and unlikely. i want to believe them though because i really think they are telling the truth.


'Lisha Danae profile image

'Lisha Danae 4 years ago Author

dragupine: Without knowing much about their synesthesia, I could not tell for sure. As I said before, OLP is a type of syn and is not terribly uncommon as far as syn-types go. Testing them on their OLP might be the best way to go, as long as they are willing to go along with it. If not, don't pressure them. I'm curious, though. What do you mean by "looking at the stats"?


dragupine 4 years ago

you have this stat paragraph in the article, somewhere between 1 in 200 and 1 in 23 people have synesthesia. our class has 22 students so it seems rather unlikely that three kids have synesthesia out of 22.


'Lisha Danae profile image

'Lisha Danae 4 years ago Author

dragupine: Oh, I see. Well, stats are just averages, you know. So, for example, if they polled 20 people, 3 people might have syn, but no one out of the next group of 20 people might have it. Then they average them together to get, for instance, 3 out of 40 people. I know that out of my small group of friends in school, two of us had synesthesia. So it's not that just because you have it no one else around you will. The statistics are just guidelines, if you want to think about it that way. Does that make sense?


dragupine 4 years ago

Yes, thank you. my friends also have OLP, but one of them says songs have colors. This is a type of sound-color synesthesia, right? And it's normal that while two of us are sure that 4 is a boy, the other thinks 4 is a girl?


'Lisha Danae profile image

'Lisha Danae 4 years ago Author

Yes, that would be sound-color synesthesia, and it's one of the most common types, if not THE most common. As for the gender of 4, every synesthete has different responses, so there is no "correct" response for anything. If two of you see 4 as a boy, that's how you see it. But your other friend is no less wrong by claiming 4 is a girl. It's exactly like a group of synesthetes arguing over the color of E. I and several others might see it as yellow, another group will see it as green, and a handful of other people may see it as orange or blue. All are valid and the argument is perfectly normal. In fact, it's these differences and these types of conversations that are the most fun!


dragupine profile image

dragupine 4 years ago

I have to agree! We were arguing and one of my teachers came along and looked at us all funny and we just started cracking up. Also, it's reassuring to know that disagreeing on colors and personalities of letters and numbers is normal. I knew I read it somewhere but I still wasn't sure... thanks!


'Lisha Danae profile image

'Lisha Danae 4 years ago Author

What a great reaction from your teacher! Glad I could help. And if you're ever looking for someone to debate colors with, you know where to find me.


The 11th Doctor profile image

The 11th Doctor 4 years ago from Gallifrey. Duh.

I remember that, dragupine... 4 is definitely a boy!


dragupine profile image

dragupine 4 years ago

lols yeah. and r is definitely a guy, too! And q is not purple!!!!!


The 11th Doctor profile image

The 11th Doctor 4 years ago from Gallifrey. Duh.

It is to me! (repeat of school)


dragupine profile image

dragupine 4 years ago

yeah, well i guess that's normal. As Lisha said ^up^ there.


The 11th Doctor profile image

The 11th Doctor 4 years ago from Gallifrey. Duh.

Yeah...


dragupine profile image

dragupine 4 years ago

obtw lisha 'the 11th doctor' is one of my synesthete friends.

thing is, at school we've got a pi chart that lists pi up to like 50th digit or something but it hasn't got the colors of the numbers right! like it says 1 is blue or something but it's not- it's rose pink!!


The 11th Doctor profile image

The 11th Doctor 4 years ago from Gallifrey. Duh.

I have 80 digits memorized and there's way more on the chart, so there has to be a lot more... but it doesn't have the colors right anyways...


dragupine profile image

dragupine 4 years ago

yeah I know! but when we told our teacher during math club she just laughed. I think she thinks that we're just being silly and doesn't believe us. But all i can say is that's her problem, not mine!!


The 11th Doctor profile image

The 11th Doctor 4 years ago from Gallifrey. Duh.

I think she thinks we're insane. Which is kinda true. :)


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dragupine 4 years ago

no, it's not. synesthesia and insanity are by far not the same thing. It is common for people to think this though, but they are incorrect! Insanity is complete "stop the voices!" and crazy stuff like that. Synesthesia is simply that the wiring in our brains weren't righted since birth and we're just a little different and thereby special. If you're not weird, you're boring!


The 11th Doctor profile image

The 11th Doctor 4 years ago from Gallifrey. Duh.

I meant it's kinda true 'cause our grade is a little different, i.e. we knock over domino towers during a school dance, push a chair off a table and break it, get in trouble constantly. But you're totally right.


dragupine profile image

dragupine 4 years ago

Yeah, i remember that. Basically, the trouble class of the school. Oh, and you can't forget the time when SOMEONE decided to put oreos in the package in the microwave...

that someone is a very neon orange person indeed, don't you think?


The 11th Doctor profile image

The 11th Doctor 4 years ago from Gallifrey. Duh.

Yup.


dragupine profile image

dragupine 4 years ago

we should totally do a whole pro-synesthesia campaign! lols! But seriously.


ilovehungergames profile image

ilovehungergames 4 years ago from California

1 is not rose pink! What are you talking about? It's a yellow-ish color!


dragupine profile image

dragupine 4 years ago

hi! welcome to hubpages! Are you a synee??


ilovehungergames profile image

ilovehungergames 4 years ago from California

yes. At least, I think so. letters and numbers have colors... and when I eat certain foods, I will "see" a color...


'Lisha Danae profile image

'Lisha Danae 4 years ago Author

ilovehungergames: Sounds like your a synee to me. So you have grapheme-color and taste-color syn? Neat!


ilovehungergames profile image

ilovehungergames 4 years ago from California

yeah, i was researching synesthesia and came across hubpages... read ur article and then signed up! :)


'Lisha Danae profile image

'Lisha Danae 4 years ago Author

Wow! That's great! And thank you for reading my article. I hope it helped.


dragupine profile image

dragupine 4 years ago

funny, i found your hub the same way! I searched "common symptoms of synesthesia" on google and found your hub! I read it and then decided to join hubpages! And now i made some of my own hubs, which was fun. :)


ilovehungergames profile image

ilovehungergames 4 years ago from California

That's really interesting...

So names have colors for you (dragupine)? really? like what?


dragupine profile image

dragupine 4 years ago

oh, one of my friends is swirls of yellow tulip... which is kinda funny, cuz the letters in his name aren't yellow letters... but yeah and then another one of my friends is evergreen with a cloudy cover, like a forest of pines on a foggy morning... stuff like that.


ilovehungergames profile image

ilovehungergames 4 years ago from California

that's awesome! Do you, like, see the colors when they talk, too or just when you see their name?


dragupine profile image

dragupine 4 years ago

I do see colors when they talk.

What foods do you see colors with?? If you see colors when you eat chocolate, what are they?


ilovehungergames profile image

ilovehungergames 4 years ago from California

oh, spaghetti, um... chocolate, yes, I see a bright green... I see colors when I drink milk... (pink, by the way...) stuff like that.


dragupine profile image

dragupine 4 years ago

that's awesome! wish i had that type of syn!


ilovehungergames profile image

ilovehungergames 4 years ago from California

yeah. back to my previous point, 1 is yellow! 2 is purple. 3 is orange. 4 is red. 5 is gold. 6 is green. 7 is light blue. 8 is brown. 9 is dark blue. 0 is black.


dragupine profile image

dragupine 4 years ago

disagree! 4 is blue! 5 is scarlet! arg. :) is 4 a guy or a girl?


The 11th Doctor profile image

The 11th Doctor 4 years ago from Gallifrey. Duh.

4 is really dark blue and 5 is bright red!


dragupine profile image

dragupine 4 years ago

oh no, here we go again... BUT Q IS NOT PURPLE! and a is pink, not red!


The 11th Doctor profile image

The 11th Doctor 4 years ago from Gallifrey. Duh.

Well, at least 4 and 5 are similar for both of us...


dragupine profile image

dragupine 4 years ago

yeah there have to be SOME similarities, don't there?


ilovehungergames profile image

ilovehungergames 4 years ago from California

true. But i still think 1 is yellow!


Rangavar 4 years ago

In order to have the synesthesia where sounds make colors, do musical notes each need their own color? Because sometimes when I hear a song it might be blue, gray, and white, but it's not like every single note has it's own color. Could it just be my imagination, then?


The 11th Doctor profile image

The 11th Doctor 4 years ago from Gallifrey. Duh.

I get different colours and personalities for each note (which makes piano a pain).


'Lisha Danae profile image

'Lisha Danae 4 years ago Author

Rangavar: No, each musical note does not need its own color. In fact, not every song or every sound has to have a color, either. As long as your synesthetic responses are consistent and involuntary, then you have synesthesia. It's just like a grapheme-color synee who doesn't have colors for every letter - so long as his responses are consistent for the letters he does see in color, then he's got grapheme-syn.


'Lisha Danae profile image

'Lisha Danae 4 years ago Author

11th Doctor: I can't imagine what it'd be like to get personalities for notes! That sounds very interesting.


Fiona 4 years ago

I'm writing a book and one of my characters has a form of synesthesia where he can see sounds, as it extrememly important to the plot. I've researched it a lot, but come a slight contradiction with my research as to whether people can physically 'see' the sounds as if it was a real entity, or whether the visual aspect of the sound was in the minds' eye, or whether it can be both. I feel slightly like I'm intruding, but I'm keen to know so I don't make a mistkae while writing and accidently offend people. Thanks


'Lisha Danae profile image

'Lisha Danae 4 years ago Author

Fiona: Synesthesia can be projected (as a real entity) OR associated (in the mind's eye). Some synesthetes will have only associated syn, others will have projected, and others will have projected for some types but associated for others. I only have associated synesthesia for all of my syn-types. There's no "wrong" or "right" way, no single way that synesthesia manifests itself, so how you want your character's synesthesia to be (projected or associated) is completely up to you.


Fiona 4 years ago

Ah, thank you for explaining, and thank you for your time. That makes much more sense now. :)

I won't feel so scared of getting it 'wrong' now. :)


'Lisha Danae profile image

'Lisha Danae 4 years ago Author

Not a problem! If you have any more questions, need some examples, or anything, please don't hesitate to ask. I'm more than happy to help where I can.


Fiona 4 years ago

Thank you. It's nice to know I have a reliable source :)


dragupine profile image

dragupine 4 years ago

@ Fiona if it helps the 11th Doctor is a projector... so if you need someone that would be her. ;)


Elise-Loyacano profile image

Elise-Loyacano 4 years ago from San Juan, Puerto Rico

Thanks for writing this article on synesthesia. I'm fascinated by the subject. My husband has various types of synesthesia (I'm quite jealous), but migraines and some meds will knock it out. He relies on his synesthesia to cook, so when he's got a migraine, you don't want to eat his food. :)


dragupine profile image

dragupine 4 years ago

lol. what types of synesthesia does he have? When he doesn't have a migraine, is he a good cook? (just a random question)


ally 4 years ago

Hi I am a


Mai 4 years ago

Hi! I don't know if I'm a synestheth but is it unusual that I see number 4 (pink with flowers) and 7 (red with hearts) as females while I see number 3 (green with leaves) as a boy and not associate number 6 with any gender? I see people seeing colors and genders associate with numbers, but objects? Also I see March as red, July as yellow orange and December as a Midnight Blue but I can't see most of the alphabet as anything out of the ordinary when encountered.


dragupine profile image

dragupine 4 years ago

I think that might be synesthesia but im no expert.... by the way, 4 and 7 r not girls!!!! :)


The 11th Doctor profile image

The 11th Doctor 4 years ago from Gallifrey. Duh.

Dragupine, remember that argument about whether 4 was a boy or irl? And 7 is dark pink-red and a little girl skipping through a field of flowers! Like numbuh 3 in kids next door.


is this Synesthesia? 4 years ago

Whenever I read I'm pretend each letter is being added to the next letter and so on and so forth. When I learn new words I learn them by turning them into a math problem. EX " CAT " is understood as "C + A + T"

I don't necessarily see colors or feel sensations. It's just I am only able to cognitively process language through mathematical concepts. is this a form of Synesthesia?


dragupine profile image

dragupine 3 years ago

Hard to say. I think that's a question for someone more experienced than me...


'Lisha Danae profile image

'Lisha Danae 3 years ago Author

Sorry for such a late reply. In response to the C+A+T inquiry, to me that does not sound like synesthesia. I'm inclined to say so for two reasons. The first is that I've never heard of a type of syn like that. It sounds more like a learning method than synesthesia like, for example, memorizing multiplication tables with rhymes.

The second reason is because you say that you "pretend" these letters are being added together, and synesthesia is involuntary. That is, a synesthete does not actively try to picture what color the letter E is. They just automatically know or see it as yellow, or red, or green.

So, from what you've said, it does not sound like you have synesthesia, at least in regards to adding letters together. But it is an interesting concept, which I would love to know more about!


FakeName 2 years ago

I've always wanted Synesthesia, it sounds really cool. :) I think maybe I have some very minor form of it, but I could be imagining it.

I get a feeling for most words, as well as letters or numbers, and if I think about it I usually have a color, but I've never tested myself on it and I doubt the results would be consistent. It's more a feeling that I translate into a color, but it's impossible to really pin down. I know it's there but when I reach for it it vanishes before I can really see it.

Numbers and letters do sometimes have personalities- but distantly, not in a way I could describe. I know them but I couldn't tell other people about them.

When I'm reading/ writing I also give characters colors rather than picturing them- no book-based movie character is ever right to me, because they don't feel the same as the book character did. It's more feeling a color than an actual color... I'm not sure how to describe it. I can tell the color's there and sometimes I taste something but for most things I couldn't tell you what it was.

I did feel quite horrified at the idea of 4 being a boy... but the more I try to figure out what I'm feeling/ seeing the less it's there, which is why I think I may be imagining things.

Question- is it possible to see the colors only with one eye? I have lazy eye and when I cover my good one, I see things. They're not very clear- sort of covered in a black haze, so it's hard to tell what color they are or it they're consistent. I only noticed this recently (I told my eye doctor about it and she said it was my prescription, but my prescription's right now and it hasn't gone away), but the colors seem to be getting clearer. For example, A used to be a blob with something very faint in it, and now it's sometimes clear enough to just purplish-pink exclamation point. I now see the exclamation point in my mind when I think of A, too (although not when I read it). This also happens with specific sounds, such as if I cover my ears. And I can see patterns in the air. Am I looking to deeply into vision problems, going crazy, or is this a normal thing?


Name 2 years ago

I have synesthesia and know that its genetic, so some people in my family might have it. I would like to find out who (if someone is) and I would like to tell them about it because I love knowing about my synesthesia and would like others to know too. But how do I confront them or find out if they have it in the first place? Thanks!


Maddie 2 years ago

I have synesthesia and I have a lot of different types of synesthesia, but my strongest are grapheme-color synesthesia and OLP. Oh and dragupine, 4 is yellow and a tomboyish girl, and is married to dark blue 5 who is a large, quiet man. I have a question: how does everyone picture the calendar? Mine is a slope that goes out in front of me and behind me, with dips and tilts where important events are supposed to be.


Maddie 2 years ago

And also, does anyone else feel touch sensations in their throat when they hear noises? I have never heard about it before and I'm wondering if it's a sort of synesthetic thing. For example, a shrill sound causes a kind of pressing feeling on the roof of the back of my mouth (I know, it sounds weird.)

Also, Name, I have had some experience in asking people! I would just briefly explain synesthesia about yourself so that, if they are synesthetes, they know they are not the only ones, and then ask if they might experience this. I don't know your family and how they would react, but I think that just getting straight to the point would be your best chance.


Bruce 2 years ago

link to my film about synesthesia

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2cmRcnlL1kA


Hannah Mullen 2 years ago

I'm twelve an have synesthesia. My perceptions have been growing stronger. I heard this can happen during puberty. Is it normal?


'Lisha Danae profile image

'Lisha Danae 2 years ago Author

It absolutely can! I didn't even know I had syn until I was 14 or 15. It started out with only colored letters and numbers, and the colors were hard to pin down, but eventually I figured them out. Then over the next few years, I discovered more kinds of syn - sound, pain, etc. I'm still figuring out new responses all the time!


Ritz 2 years ago

I was researching synesthesia for my own entertainment, and came across a page listing the many different types. Now, just to make this clear, I had no belief whatsoever that I had synesthesia of any form. What caught my attention, however, was that there was a vision-flavor synesthesia among the list. Now, I always thought that was something everyone experienced, looking at a lemon and having a sharp sour taste in your mouth for example. I'm somewhat skeptical as to whether this is a legitimate form of synesthesia though, as it only happens with sour foods and I've always thought it was normal. If something this small DOES classify as synesthesia, then I wouldn't be surprised if the %s were much higher than are thought, since I never would have questioned it had I not been researching this specific topic.

I'd like to hear your thoughts on the matter.


'Lisha Danae profile image

'Lisha Danae 2 years ago Author

That's interesting. I've never had that kind of response to a lemon before, for example - not consistently, at least. Synesthesia can happen in small amounts and still be considered synesthesia. For instance, someone can have only half of the alphabet colored or see shapes for music but not other sounds.

I'm a little hesitant to call what you're describing synesthesia, though, simply because the association sounds so ... I don't want to say "logical", but that's the only word that's coming to mind at the moment. Sour foods = sour taste response. If someone got tastes for colors, I'd find it a bit odd if it was "red taste like cherry, orange like orange, yellow like banana..." and so on. That's not to say a few can't match, but usually the sorts of response I hear and read about are more arbitrary.

I'm sorry if this is a little vague. I don't want to completely dismiss it, but I'm also a little hesitant to put a label on it. As it's not my experience, I can't say for certain. Hope this helped, and if you have other questions, let me know. (As for not knowing if you hadn't questioned, I have zero recollection of any synesthesia before the age of 14, when I first saw a documentary on it, so, yeah, the numbers could be higher.)

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