People with Synesthesia experience stimuli across more than one sense. We have been aware of Synethesia for centuries, but only recently has the science behind it been investigated in more detail. Many people don’t realise they even have Synethesia. Why would you question your perception of the world, unless you compared it with someone else’s?
Synesthesia is defined as a, “neurological phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or
cognitive pathway’’ (Simner 2012).
I am not going to discuss the details of the science of why Synesthesia occurs, but here are a few types of Synesthesia explained simply:
Grapheme-color Synesthesia a person may see or associate different letters or numbers with colours.
Chromesthesia-Heard sounds evoke an experience of colour.
Auditory-tactile synesthesia- Hearing or feeling sound.
Ordinal linguistic personification-ordinal numbers, days, months and letters are associated with personalities and/or genders.
Mirror-touch synesthesia- to experience the same sensation that another person feels. So if someone touched their own cheek the Synesthete would feel it on their own cheek.
Spatial sequence synesthesia- Visualising sequences or orders of things in space.
After researching Synesthesia and reading about the various types, I realised that I may have Spatial Sequence Synesthesia (SSS). Of course, this could be a classic case of inaccurate internet diagnosis, but really, I didn’t realise that visualising certain things was unusual.
When someone asks me what I am doing in the summer I unconsciously think of the summer area of my year on a kind of circle/oval in my head. At the moment I’m far away from the summer part (in yellow) because it’s only March, but as the year moves on I change position on my circuit. I also see it from other perspectives, even if it’s not that time of the year. I do it with other things too, like the decades, or a week, or numbers. It’s not like I’m actively trying to visualise something, it just happens.
This is hard to explain, so here is a black and white drawing of what my year looks like…
I wonder if anyone reading this does the same as me.
I find this so interesting, because until yesterday I assumed that everyone else has these strange conceptualisations in their head. But after asking my friends, it turns out that most of them don’t, and that is difficult to imagine for me.
Ingold was right to question his sensory experience. After a bit of comparison with other people, I am now wondering how these conceptualisations affect my embodied experience. Do they influence how I remember things? It leads me to wonder what the phenomenological experience for someone with other, stronger types of Synesthesia is like. How does their embodied experience of seeing sound (for example) influence their daily life and social interactions?
Ingold, T. (2011). The perception of the environment. 1st ed. London: Routledge.
Some Information about Synethesia was gathered from: http://sdl.granthazard.com/about (Check it out, it lists famous artists who have Synethesia).
Meier, B. and Rothen, N. (2007). When conditioned responses “fire back”: Bidirectional cross-activation creates learning opportunities in synesthesia. Neuroscience, 147(3), pp.569-572.
Jäncke, L. (2014). The brain of synesthetes. Rendiconti Lincei, 25(3), pp.309-316.