Synesthesia: A Spectacular Phenomenon

Note: This one of from July 2017

So the other day, I was watching a television quiz show and one of the contestants, who happened to be a musician, told the host that he had a condition called synesthesia. The condition relates to the senses in terms of auditory senses and sight, and in essence means that the individual who has the unique condition may be able to hear or taste colours. This really took my interest, and yes, it is a little confusing the way I’ve put it. You’d need a bit more information and clarification to understand it fully, or at least a little more. So let me explain.

Synesthesia is, by definition, a perceptual condition, or rather a phenomenon, in which the stimulation of one sense triggers an automatic and involuntary experience in terms of another sense. Basically, two senses overlap. And it’s not a condition unique to one pair of senses. It could combine any of the senses together, for example sight and sound, sight and taste, etc. People who have this amazing phenomenon may be able to hear or taste colours, or taste words. The most common form of the condition is one in which an individual relates a colour to numbers or letters they can physically see. For example, an individual with what is termed grapheme-colour synesthesia may be shown the number 7 in bold black, but may see it in a colour such as blue. A different individual who also has the condition may see this same number in yellow. Amazing, right?

There are also a range of other forms of synesthesia which are somewhat rarer, but are also very very cool. For example, hearing colours. Some synesthetes are able to, when a note is played, instantly recognise it as a colour. For example, an individual with this type of synesthesia, termed chromesthesia, when hearing a certain note, maybe one played on a piano such as a C, would get a flash of a certain colour which they would then relate to this note, such as red. They may then hear a B, and see green, D could evoke blue, E could evoke purple, etcetera. What really intrigues me though is a question to which I will avail to find the answer. Would someone with this type of synesthesia, when hearing two notes played at the same time, or even a three note chord, see two or three different colours, or one single colour? And if they see only one colour, would this colour be a mix of those which they see when they hear the two or three notes played individually? Something to really get you thinking there.

So there you have it, synesthesia. An absolutely spectacular phenomenon. Many of those individuals who have it actually don’t even know they have it until they hear about it somewhere. Most just think it’s a normal thing that everyone has. But then they hear about on television or on the radio or through a friend or family member or from any other source, and they realise that they have a tremendously spectacular gift. I honestly wouldn’t mind having some of the abilities synesthetes have myself. And that’s it from me for now. Have a good evening and I’ll be back for the Weekly Wrap-Up tomorrow.

JJ

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