A few years ago, I was talking with my husband about
education (since we are both teachers), and we were discussing why he
loved English and I loved mathematics. During the course of the
conversation I made the statement that I see numbers in color.
Tony looked at me kind of oddly and asked what I meant by that. I continued
to describe how each letter of the alphabet
and each numerical digit had its own color. It's always been that
way, and always will be. I have no control over the colors--five
is always orange, k is always a pale grayish-blue color. He
thought my perceptions were fascinating, to say the least.
It wasn't but a few months later that Tony urged me
to read this article in the December
1999 Issue of
Magazine, "Do You See What They See?"
. It describes people with a unique condition who
can see sounds, smell colors, and taste shapes. The article states that these bizarre perceptions are
due to "an unusual intermingling of the senses known as synesthesia, a
condition that can take a multitude of forms." In
fact, a researcher named
Day has documented 19 different types of synesthesia from 175 case histories. The most common form (found in
69% of the cases) involves numbers and letters evoking colors, while some of the
singular cases involve taste evoking touch or sound evoking odor.
Since discovering that I have this unusual ability,
I have visited many online reference sites and collected some
interesting data about it. I have created these pages here to
explore my own synesthetic perceptions and compile some of the more
intriguing facts I have encountered. Below,
you can sample the colors in which I see numbers and letters, as well as
read more detail about my own experiences with synesthesia.
My Numerical-Lexical Colors
Move your mouse
under the digits to see how I perceive them.
Hold your mouse under the sentence as you
read it to see how it appears to me.
Would you like more detail about my synesthetic colors and
experiences? Click here.
Females and non-right-handers
Studies in the U.S. have shown a female-to-male ratio of 3:1 (or
75%) while studies in the U.K. have shown a ratio of 8:1 (or
89%). The majority of left-handed synesthetes is in
correlation to the condition being a left-hemisphere function of the
The trait is familial. (Experience) Either sex parent can pass the trait to
either sex child. Familial genetic relationships
range from one family which has synesthetes in each of four
generations, to another family having four synesthetes out of five
siblings in the same generation.
Memory is superior. (Experience)
Synesthetes perform in the superior
range of the Wechsler Memory Scale. Most synesthetes cite
their parallel sensations as being the cause of their excellent
memories. It is a natural memory aid. Spatial location
of objects is also extraordinarily remembered, which is perhaps
related to a tendency to prefer order, balance, and symmetry.
Math and spatial navigation
Again, this is in correlation to the
dominance of the left-hemisphere. The majority of synesthetes
may have subtle mathematical deficiencies, such as lexical-to-digit
transcoding or right-left confusion (
something that I have, even
though I am a math teacher).
"abnormal" only in being statistically rare.
It is estimated that about 1:2000
people have it.
A minority are prone to
"unusual experiences". (Experience) In one study, approximately 17% of the
synesthetes said they experienced deja vu, clairvoyance,
precognitive dreams, or a sense of portentousness.
Synesthetic relationships are usually
This means that for a particular
synesthete sound may induce touch, but touch does not induce
any audio perception. It is a one-way street.
Synesthesia is emotional. The experience elicits a sense of
certitude. Synesthetes are convinced that what they perceive
is real and valid.
Links on Synesthesia
The facts and statistics above were gathered from the following sites.
Please explore them if you would like further information about