Synesthesia is a fascinating phenomenon: It almost seems impossible that some people can see colors associated with sounds, emotions, or letters and numbers. Yet many do — as many as one percent of people experience some synesthesia.
V.S. Ramachandran and others have suggested that synesthesia is less of a disorder than an exaggeration of some aspects of the perceptual system. At CogDaily, we’ve even informally found that some colors are more frequently associated with particular emotions among our readers.
Now a new study has found some patterns in the perceptions of synesthetes:
Psychologist Daniel Smilek and his colleagues at the University of Waterloo have found that a relationship exists between how frequently a synesthete uses a given digit and the brightness of synesthetic color experiences. That is, the more often letters or digits are used in everyday life, the more luminous the synesthetic colors.
But this phenomenon extended beyond synesthetes:
The researchers also found that this relationship is not limited to synesthetic color experiences. When non-synesthetes were asked to select a colors to associate with each letter of the alphabet and the digits 0-9, the non-synesthetes also selected more luminous colors for digits and letters used more frequently.
The relationship between luminosity and frequency of use wasn’t as strong in non-synesthetes, but it was measurable. This certainly seems to support the notion that we all have a little synesthesia.