Monday, September 14, 2009

Synaesthete?

I have been sort of interested in the condition synaesthesia because I perhaps have a mild version of it. I associate particular colours with numbers and letters, days of the week ect, the hallmark symptom of this 'condition'. I always attributed this to the fact that early in school when these things were taught to me they were shown to me on coloured construction paper. These materials were probably repeatedly used and posted around the classroom. Interestingly, since I didn't go to school on Saturday or Sunday these days have particularly unique 'colours'. In fact Saturday has two pointy ears like bugs bunny because I watched Saturday morning cartoons.
However, I have read that a true synaethete can quickly see a number 2 in a sea of 5's for example because the colour stands out. I don't 'see' the associated colour quit so literally and could definitely not do this. See if you can do it.
An article at the BBC describes some variations of synaesthesia that are interesting. I was very interested to see the diagram posted here. I definitely see the year as a circle much like that in the diagram. However the one in my mind that I use is fixed and encircles the yard in the house where I grew up (June is near the maple tree ect.)
The BBC article carries on to state:
They have already established that most people associate texture and shape with shades of colour. And most people have an intrinsic sense of the shade of different pitches of sound
That combined with the performance advantage that some synaethetes have in certain memory tasks makes me wonder if these associations are simply mental cheats that are very commonly used and just become part of the working of your mind.
The most bizarre sounding one to me is the rare lexical / gustatory synesthesia where individual words and the phonemes of spoken language evoke taste sensations in the mouth. I would never admit to this condition for fear of being taken advantage of if I was hungry.
Does anyone else have these mental connections? I suspect lots of people have these mental tricks and, as the BBC article states, if it is a condition probably has a very large spectrum. Does the time of day smell or the letters of the alphabet taste?


2 comments:

Mary Spiro said...

I saw the two right away but I don't think I have synaethesia. I definitely associate colors with sounds or months of the year with color but like you said, I think these are cheats or patterns drilled into our primary school heads.

The Doc said...

Mary,

There are six twos which immediately spring out at me. That wasn't because of their colour. I'm just particularly good at these sorts of shape finding tasks - which is useful in Chemistry.

How many twos are there?