The Universe and Me

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Colour your world

People who know me know I don’t like the colour (or color if you have to be American) red. When I get upset, more along the lines of frustrated or sad rather than angry, I’ve been known to say, “There’s too much red!” While my perception of colours as emotions stops there, people with synesthesia feel and see them in more ways. One of the most common forms of synesthesia (literally: joined perception) is seeing letters as colours. Every letter of the alphabet will be a different colour. Putting the letters together to form words can result in the word taking on the colour of the first letter. Some see only vowels in colour. With each person, the colour will not vary. Once you see the letter T as pink, every time you see T, it will be pink. But another person with synesthesia may see T as brown. It’s estimated that only one in every 25,000 people has synesthesia, the ability to feel smells, hear tastes and see music. Three times as many women as men have it. Synesthetes tend to be left-handed, intelligent (though not good with math), creative, and have a poor sense of direction, probably due to all those perceptions losing their separate distinctions. Synesthesia can be acquired through a head injury, but I wouldn’t recommend it.


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