Can You Hear Colors? You’re Not High, You Might Have Synesthesia!

by amanda

Isn’t it so annoying when you’re in a museum and you can’t simply admire the artwork without Beethoven’s 5th  surging your auditory canal? Or how about when you can’t focus on your Philosophy lecture because the taste of blueberry pie invades your taste buds every time your professor says ‘Sophocles’? Ugh, the worst. 

Wait what? You don’t know what I’m talking about? Not to worry, that means your part of the majority of people with normal functioning senses! But… if you happen to identify with any of these statements, you may be part of the 3.7% with a psychobiological disorder called Synesthesia. Relax, no need to get your knickers in a twist! Synesthesia is perfectly harmless. In fact, it’s probably the most insanely awesome “disorder” you could have, haters be trippin. 

It’s essentially when a person’s senses crosswire, so that a single stimulus evokes more than one sensory experience. There are LOADS of different types of Synesthesia with varying degrees of severity, so it’s very possible that you have it and don’t even know it!  


I first learned about this disorder in my AP Psych class and promptly began resenting  my DNA for being so lackluster. That was, until I decided to do some research on my own, and upon completion of countless readings and quizzes, I was beyond thrilled to realize that I have a very mild case of Number-Form Synesthesia. In most cases, this is when a person sees numbers and days of the week in a sort of mental map that is evoked involuntarily and consistently the same every single time.

One person with a severe case of this condition describes how he visualizes the days of the week, “I see days in two week blocks. It’s like a calendar. However, when I look at next week, the perspective shifts, and I look at it backwards. So instead of being straight left to right, the next week is from right to left, backwards, and if it’s Saturday, it’s like I’m actually standing on Saturday.” 

It is much less exciting in my case. I simply associate very specific shapes and colors to each day of the week. For example, Friday is in a silver rectangle and Saturday is in a pink heart shape.  


So here, my friends, are the main types of Synesthesia. Find out if you are among the great synesthetes of the world, including, Jimi Hendrix, Edgar Degas, Stevie Wonder, John Mayer, Mozart, Tilda Swinton, Duke Ellington, and Marilyn Monroe.

Grapheme-color Synesthesia

These synesthetes perceive symbols (mostly letters and numbers) in different colors. Usually each symbol will consistently be associated with one unique color- this is the most common type and the easiest to assess. The most widely used test is the pop-out test.

a person with this condition would be able to very quickly spot the shape formed by the sequences of 2s and 5s.

This is the type of Synesthesia that singer-songwriter Patrick Stump has.

Sound-Color Synesthesia

When a person automatically perceives any sound in a certain color- this was the type of Synesthesia attributed to musicians Jimi Hendrix (who actually referred to the chord E7#9 as the “purple chord”), Mozart (who claimed that D major had an “orangey” sound and a major chord was a rainbow of colors) Stevie Wonder and John Mayer.


Ordinal-linguistic personification

This is when a person involuntarily applies personalities to sounds, symbols and tastes. Some people with this type associate genders with the subjects in question, for example the letter “C” may be considered more feminine than the letter “E.” This is the type of Synesthesia held by Edvard Munch who associates colors with different emotions (his most famous painting “The Scream,” was actually inspired by the fear evoked by a red sunset).


While there is no proof, I’m totally convinced that Taylor Swift has this, (i.e in her song “Red” the chorus goes “losing him was blue like I’ve never known, missing him was dark grey all alone… loving him was red.) I rest my case. 


Lexical-Gustatory Synesthesia

For these synesthetes, certain words or colors evoke different tastes . This is the type of Synesthesia that Tilda Swinton has, she explains “The word ‘word’ is  a sort of gravy. ‘Table’ in a slightly dry cake. ‘Tomato’ is not actually tomato, it’s lemony.” I genuinely want this more than anything, but the sad truth is, I’d probably just never stop craving food.


 So are you a Synesthete (even just a leetle beet)? If so, comment below! 

Pics Via UNC, mezzmer, flickrneurokuz, bradenbost, and io9

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