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August 5, 2008 8:30 PM   Subscribe

"People with synaesthesia can’t help but get two sensory perceptions for the price of one. Some perceive colours when they hear words or musical notes, or read numbers; rarer individuals can even get tastes from shapes." (previously) Neuroscientist Melissa Saenz of the California Institute of Technology has discovered a new form [pdf] of synaesthesia. Can you hear the dots? (QT)
posted by Kronos_to_Earth (75 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Nope. Can't hear the dots, smell colors, hear scents or any of that.

I'm afflicted with sense segregation.
posted by chimaera at 8:36 PM on August 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


AHHH! You broked my brains!
posted by 1adam12 at 8:42 PM on August 5, 2008


I once met someone whose synaesthesia manifested for him as people's personalities having a color quality. For a while he thought he could see auras until he figured out what was happening.

Apparently something about the essence of my being is a deep slate blue.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:44 PM on August 5, 2008


chimera is a SENSIST!

Next thing you know it'll be ok to use slurs such as colortasters here.
posted by qvantamon at 8:44 PM on August 5, 2008


I've always been jealous of people with synaesthesia. Nope, I don't hear the dots' sounds. The only time I've ever had a synaesthetic experience was once, when I was a teenager, under [ahem] certain circumstances, I saw Led Zeppelin's music tumble out of a speaker.

What did it look like? Well, you know the Showcase Showdown wheel on The Price is Right? It was like that, only rainbow-colored.
posted by not_on_display at 8:48 PM on August 5, 2008 [4 favorites]


I wanted so badly to hear the dots
posted by Rinku at 8:48 PM on August 5, 2008 [6 favorites]


Hear the dots.
posted by pompomtom at 8:52 PM on August 5, 2008


Professor X is never going to come for me at this rate.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 8:53 PM on August 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure I have synaesthesia. Four has always been green, the word stupid is purple and my friend Adam is red. It's a weird feeling to describe, because it's not like I'm seeing the colors manifest themselves, it's literally the sensation of the color that kind of whips its way across your brain, sometimes so subtle you don't even notice it. When I'm driving in my car and listening to the radio, I often times realize I'm feeling a certain color, not feeling in the way you feel "sad" but feeling in that abstract way that can't really be quantified.

I like my synaesthesia, it's always weird to me that it's described as a condition. I guess I'm just lucky it's not debilitating,
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 8:55 PM on August 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


Isn't it more interesting and truer to think of synaesthesia as a natural phenomenon instead of a condition that some people have? I'm pretty sure that the synaesthetic is available to everyone, all the time. Like, literally, at every moment.
posted by farmdoggie at 8:56 PM on August 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oh I did hear some sounds with the dots, it was faint, but it was something like an alarm you'd hear in a James Bond movie, loud and exaggerated and it played backwards and forwards in rhythm with the motion.
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 8:56 PM on August 5, 2008


Funny, the dots sound just like John Cage's 4'33" to me.
posted by Pyry at 8:57 PM on August 5, 2008 [16 favorites]


chimera is a SENSIST!

In my defense, it's more of a de facto segregation rather than full-on sensory apartheid.
posted by chimaera at 9:11 PM on August 5, 2008


Pyry,

Just keep replaying the video a little longer....
posted by Kronos_to_Earth at 9:19 PM on August 5, 2008


I have grapheme-color synesthesia, but I can't hear the dots. I do, however, hear a thrumming in my right ear when I listen to the phone or a single headphone on the left ear. Does anyone else have that? It's terribly distracting when I'm trying to, say, transcribe an interview done on a recorder with mono output...
posted by limeonaire at 9:20 PM on August 5, 2008


Rhhhhhmmmm, rmmmmmmmmrh.

That's so weird! Really, no one hears anything? I do have synaesthesia, but that one to me almost seems impossible NOT to notice. Like a cultural bias or something-- I feel like we're all trained to hear a sort of whirring noise, backwards and forwards, from cartoons. Right? Right?
posted by dmaterialized at 9:22 PM on August 5, 2008


I don't know about any sound, but these dots taste like bacon.
posted by qvantamon at 9:23 PM on August 5, 2008 [7 favorites]


I'm pretty sure that the synaesthetic is available to everyone, all the time. Like, literally, at every moment.

See, that's ridiculous. synaesthasia is a condition. You can argue it's not a 'bad' thing if you want to but it is a real thing caused by real physical differences in the brain. It's not 'available to everyone' any more then going on a mushroom trip is 'available to everyone at every moment'.

I mean, yeah everyone can imagine what having synaesthasia would be like, just like they can imagine what tripping on mushrooms or LSD is like. But imagining it and experiencing it are not at all the same things.

Interestingly mushrooms can actually 'desegregate' and mix up your senses, but the result is nothing like synaesthasia. For example, some sound might trigger a cascade of lights, or shapes, or whatever, but it would be different every time, whereas with synaesthasia the results are always consistent. The same word or number (or whatever) is always exactly the same.
posted by delmoi at 9:24 PM on August 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


Sounds like a water hose hitting a drum. Lower pitch when dots go back.

So what do I win?
posted by idiotfactory at 9:24 PM on August 5, 2008


I think I heard them, but I also think that I wouldn't have if I hadn't been told to think about whether I heard them or not.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 9:24 PM on August 5, 2008


I don't hear a thing, but dammit, I really want to. It's kind of frustrating to know that there's an experience out there I'm being prevented from having; it feels like some kind of handicap (apart from the fact that almost everyone shares it).
posted by wanderingmind at 9:32 PM on August 5, 2008


I think I heard something. It sounded kind of like my speakers hissing. Freaky.
posted by puke & cry at 9:33 PM on August 5, 2008


Weeeird. I didn't hear it, then I heard it, and now I can't hear it again--a very faint tapping/plinking/echo-y sound just as idiotfactory says (and I heard it that way before reading the description).

I know someone who has the same thing with colors and personalities, EmpressCallipygos. Me, I experience people as being "right" or "left."
posted by hippugeek at 9:39 PM on August 5, 2008


It sounded like "oooo-ah, ah-ooh!". I'm outside, and I could hear it over the crickets.

I've never believed myself to have any synaesthestic qualities though.
posted by padraigin at 9:40 PM on August 5, 2008


I can hear the dots. They sound like very faint rainfall.

I too associate letters with taste/colors.

BUT... I must wonder if that latter detail wasn't somehow influenced by things from my childhood. I remember for part of elementary school we were on a multitrack system and all four tracks were color-coded. ALL of the documentation and such were color-coded according to track. To this day, I still associate A with green, B with yellow, blue with C and red with D, though other letters after that have formed new color associations.

Also there was a book my 4th-grade teacher read to us, The Phantom Tollbooth. Early on in the book there was a marketplace that described some letters as tasting like oranges and others like stale air. Probably that influenced the way I perceived letters and numbers, too. (That book stuck with me so much that over 10 years later I ended up chasing down a copy at Borders, but that's another story.)

Hearing visuals, though... that's something new. Or not. I remember sitting in on this one motion graphics class during a critique for abstracted vector animations, and I swear I could hear that orange triangle bouncing off the edges of the screen.
posted by Yoshi Ayarane at 9:42 PM on August 5, 2008


It's bizarre how strong the desire to be a synesthete is here. I feel it too, and knowing that the chances were way against me, I started to feel disappointed before even watching the video.

There's a certain stigma that's associated with the word "condition", probably because the vast majority of things that might get called "conditions" are negative, or at the very least weird enough to get you mocked in the playground. Even if we coined or co-opted another word to have the same denotation, but lack the negative connotations, I think it would quickly develop the same associations for the same reasons. If you try to think of "condition" as in "the condition of being awake" as opposed to as in "he has a serious medical condition", it seems less offensive. I can't speak for synesthetes, but I am a supertaster*, which could also be called a "condition", and personally, I wouldn't find the term offensive. Now if you were to call it a "disorder", "disease", or "handicap", I'd have something else to say.

*It's not nearly as uncommon as this new type of synesthesia (about 1 in 4), but I get the same kick out of having this condition as the one I desperately wanted to get out of having that one.
posted by ErWenn at 9:52 PM on August 5, 2008


Could I be projecting that I can experience the sound because I believe I should be entitled to hear it?
posted by captainsohler at 9:55 PM on August 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Those of you with synesthesia ... is the effect/perception enhanced with drug use? (say, marijuana, alcohol, ecstacy, or any of the hallucinogens?) Is it there when you dream?
posted by Auden at 10:00 PM on August 5, 2008


I think it's pretty irresponsible that the researchers added to that video an audio track whispering "Mommy doesn't love you."
posted by orthogonality at 10:05 PM on August 5, 2008 [11 favorites]


i noticed this many years ago. i can slightly hear movements when there is no sound- like goldfish swimming in a bowl. i didn't realize it hadn't been "discovered". it does make it easier to count rhythms as they say in the experiment.
posted by bhnyc at 10:11 PM on August 5, 2008


When I see something like this, the trickster in my head starts getting ideas...

This one isn't so vulnerable (if it had sound, someone could discover simply by tweaking the volume), but you could do something like show a video, with a comment like "Can you see a very faint angry face in the smoke? research shows that being able to see the face correlates with latent furry fetish". And then have the webserver transparently show a video with a very faint angry face only to IPs that are multiple of 10 or something of the sort, and see the long discussion entailing about who can see it and who cannot...
posted by qvantamon at 10:12 PM on August 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


No sounds with the dots for me, though I do associate letters and numbers with colors. Is it sick of me to enjoy the synesthesia envy in this thread after having the typical "omigod not everyone does this stop looking at me funny I'm a freak don't EVER mention the colors again" experience in early adulthood? I feel like the band geek in a John Hughes movie made prom king.
posted by sapere aude at 10:18 PM on August 5, 2008


I experience people as being "right" or "left."

Hey, me too! For example, I experience John McCain as right and Barack Obama as left.
posted by decagon at 10:21 PM on August 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


I really do have intense grapheme→color synesthesia, though, which of course makes me a more spiritually attuned being
posted by decagon at 10:24 PM on August 5, 2008


Those of you with synesthesia ... is the effect/perception enhanced with drug use? (say, marijuana, alcohol, ecstacy, or any of the hallucinogens?) Is it there when you dream?

There when I dream the same way I tend to have arms and legs in dreams as well; it's just a part of you.

Drug use doesn't enhance it for me, though sleep deprivation cranks it up a notch.

Me: Numbers/colours very strongly, letter/colours strongly, colours for days of week and months as well.

the typical "omigod not everyone does this stop looking at me funny I'm a freak don't EVER mention the colors again" experience in early adulthood?

I read an article about synasthesia in the Globe in 1993 and it was the first time that it ever occured to me that was something that not everybody had. I canvassed my friends and found one other person. Then we had arguments over the colours of letters.
posted by jokeefe at 10:26 PM on August 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


I didn't hear the dots.

I do not have synaesthesia.

When I hear music, I associate it VERY strongly with color, however, which is very consistent, and I have found myself getting frustrated with, day, pandora, in that I can't just give it a color scheme to work off of. This musical color scheme in my head is on a blue/orange spectrum, but certain specific shades of green mean a certain type of sound to me, which I can't explain in any other way.

I imagine this phemomenon (which I'm describing) is pretty common.

Synaesthesia, I imagine, is not.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:35 PM on August 5, 2008


Navelgazer, if it's consistent and related to something key, then it's definitely synasthesia.

One of us! One of us!
posted by jokeefe at 10:37 PM on August 5, 2008


I mean something LIKE key.
posted by jokeefe at 10:37 PM on August 5, 2008


Is it there when you dream?

I think that, when I'm dreaming, words actually appear, visually, in their "real" colors. But I'm just not sure. Usually in my dreams I'm more interested in driving to Britt Daniel's award-winning pizzeria or escaping from acquaintances' haunted last names than in pondering the relation between orthography and color.

I remember reading somewhere that no synesthetic has ever reported dreaming in color. Is there anything to this? I'm fairly sure I've never had a single black-and-white dream.
posted by decagon at 10:38 PM on August 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


I heard, or imagined that I heard, a sound like ball-bearings pouring into a funnel, and then that reversed. But I think that was because I "expected", when watching little balls roll and bounce into a funnel, to hear that kind of noise.

"Imaginary soundtrack", if you like. Another example: there's a video that by now everyone's seen, it is, or purports to be, an in-office security camera video (hence silent) of a fat guy, frustrated beyond self-control, picking up his keyboard and beating his computer and monitor with it. Every time he hits the monitor, even though the video is silent, I imagine I hear the thump of it. Maybe a few years from now, if I never thought about it, I might remember the video as having a soundtrack of thumps.

So I think that phenomenon is real, but is distinct from synaesthesia.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 11:15 PM on August 5, 2008


Woo! Woo! How about how great Sernity was? Huh?
posted by humannaire at 11:48 PM on August 5, 2008


Hmm. I get:
Skeeeeeeee, Booooohhm, forwards/backwards respectively, the same sound each time. I can't really 'hear' these sounds the way I can hear other sounds, but they're there in a ghostly fashion. It's as if I heard someone call my name in a crowd, and I whipped my head around and looked around to realize that I had just been hearing/imagining things. That level of 'hearing', except reliably so.
posted by suedehead at 2:09 AM on August 6, 2008


I heard a sort of white-noise whooshing, sort of like static, but not as unpleasant. It also changed pitch when the dots moved back and forth. But, like others, I wonder if I'm imaging it because I had been told that's what could happen.
posted by Shoeburyness at 2:45 AM on August 6, 2008


I've associated sounds with motion for as long as I remember, but it's not something going on all the time. The moving dots example works for me. I hear it as two tones, the first (dots moving out) is higher than the second. My mind rejects hearing the tones in the opposite order.

It's never an "external" auditory hallucination, sounding like something happening outside me. Instead, it's like when I remember/play music in my head.

I agree that for those of us reading this post, the test is spoiled by the suggestion we may "hear" something. Still, this example is exactly the type of thing I would normally "hear" anyway.
posted by D.C. at 3:39 AM on August 6, 2008


I'm pretty sure that the synaesthetic is available to everyone, all the time. Like, literally, at every moment.
See, that's ridiculous. synaesthasia is a condition.

I'm deaf, but with residual hearing, and I associate sounds with objects in motion regardless of whether the sounds occur. For example, if my hearingaid is off (it takes a bullhorn by my ear for me to register sounds, then) and I'm standing by the roadside, if I see a car coming up the road, I can hear what I think a car coming up the road sounds like. If the road surface is gravel, I can hear the gravel crunching. But as soon as I stop thinking about the car, the sound stops. The "hearing" is involuntary for me because the observation of the car is so strongly associated with the approximation of the sound, and of that sound only.

It sure feels as if it's a mental subsitution of mine, one I've honed over my life -- perhaps as a survival tactic. (It's useful, no?) I haven't asked other deaf people if they experience the same thing. I wonder if the truly deaf experience true silence....

Which is all to say that yeah, I heard the dots suck in and blow out because that's what their motion looked like to me. Is it synaesthesia? Is it a learned behavior? You tell me!
posted by Jubal Kessler at 3:44 AM on August 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


Synaesthesia is like ADHD or hypoglycemia. It may exist as a genuine neurobiological condition, or it may not. But one thing for sure is that many, many more people claim to have some form of it on the basis of evidence that proves nothing, usually self-reported, than could possibly be true.

But then Oliver Sacks would not sell books of people were not so gullible on this stuff.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:23 AM on August 6, 2008


I heard a faint sound like breathing, or waves, with a rising and falling pitch. And I could still hear it with a hair dryer going full blast about ten feet from me.
posted by SNACKeR at 5:40 AM on August 6, 2008


I guess I've had this sort of synaesthesia for as long as I can remember, though I never of it as synaesthesia before now. When I see certain things, there's a sort of secondary perception of it as sound... but not the same as sound I hear through my ears. More like sound heard through bone conduction... at the base of the skull.

It's probably vaguely similar to puke & cry's hissing. It's sibilant, faint, and noise I hear around me doesn't affect the volume at which I perceive it.

Other things can trigger it. Usually involved with light-sources of various sorts. I'll have to pay more attention now that I've become aware of it...
posted by Lafe at 6:11 AM on August 6, 2008


This page lists several composers who were synesthetes including Rimsky-Korsakov, Messaien, and Sebelius. The Wikipedia page on synesthesia also claims that John Mayer, Aphex Twin, and Pharrell Williams are synesthetes. I distinctly remember reading some interview from John Mayer where he describes some of his songs in terms of their color.
posted by jonp72 at 6:28 AM on August 6, 2008


I read an article about synasthesia in the Globe in 1993 and it was the first time that it ever occured to me that was something that not everybody had. I canvassed my friends and found one other person. Then we had arguments over the colours of letters.


Hee -- this reminds me of a couple anecdotes I read from a book about synesthesia. One person with the condition talked about how her kindergarten classmates reacted when she alluded to it -- she said something about Wednesday being blue, and of course nearly everyone else she was talking to said, "whaaaa?" and the more she tried to describe it, the more they jeered and finally walked away. Leaving only one other little girl, who was frowning at her, puzzled. "But...Wednesday is PURPLE," this other little girl said. ...They became best friends.

There was another woman who was looking for a receptionist job, and just applied blindly to a few positions. She hadn't ever heard the term "synesthesia," so when the interviewer told her that their office researched it, she asked, "What's synesthesia?"

"It's a benign sensory condition," the HR person said, "where people associate colors with sounds or things like that. Like, they'll think that the letter Q is green."

"....But Q is orange," the woman said.

The HR person just blinked and said, "You're hired."

Synaesthesia is like ADHD or hypoglycemia. It may exist as a genuine neurobiological condition, or it may not. But one thing for sure is that many, many more people claim to have some form of it on the basis of evidence that proves nothing, usually self-reported, than could possibly be true.


Or...maybe not. There's some arguments that to an extent we all have some sort of RESIDUAL synesthesia, where it's nowhere near as pronounced as others have but there's still a trace of unconscious association with one type of sound having a kind of tactile quality or something -- there's a picture on the Wikipedia page illustrating this. An experiment was conducted where people were shown two shapes - one was spiky and pointy, and the other was more blobby and curvy. Subjects were told that one of these shapes was named "kiki" and the other was "bobo", and they were asked to guess which one they thought was which. A sizeable majority selected the spiky shape as "kiki", suggesting that something about the hard, pointy, spiky shapes seemed to "fit" better with the harsh sounds of the "k" consonants.

However, this is all a far, far cry from what I've read genuine synesthesia is; I've heard about the color-grapheme kind, and my friend who had color-personality kind (he worked in theater, and said that one fringe benefit came when he was reading a script because he would start seeing each character's lines in their color print, and it helped him find his place in his script really easily). But I've also heard about people who have experiences like, whenever they taste broiled shrimp it makes them see a strange, day-glo orange blobby shape just out of the corner of their right eye, or people who have audio-tactile synesthesia and whenever they go to a concert it feels like they're also getting a massage.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:39 AM on August 6, 2008


Weird. It sounds like my mother saying "Kronos to Earth, get in here and wash these dishes!"
posted by nax at 7:01 AM on August 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


*Everyone* forms specific and often recurrent mental associations in response to particular stimuli. That's not what "synaesthesia" means in neurological terms. By the time a "sound" or a "smell" is consciously processed, it's an electrical signal, not the original stimulus. It enters a field of similar electrical signals that are co-processed in the same areas of the brain.

As it's being described by many here -- and in general -- we're all synaesthetes. Or none of us are.
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:03 AM on August 6, 2008


I hate synaesthesiasts. They think they're superior life forms with unique insight into the nature of reality. They assume we have everything the learn from them, and they have nothing to learn from us. They feel entitled to our devotion and service!
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 7:05 AM on August 6, 2008


I agree with the "imaginary soundtrack" theory. I didn't HEAR the sounds with my ears, but i could imagine them. I watched the video without reading any descriptions of what it should sound like, and i still heard the same thing everyone else is reporting. A wooshing sound that played backwards and at a lower pitch when the dots reversed.

I've noticed this before plenty of times. Blinking lights have the strongest reaction. I chalk it up to an over-active imagination.
posted by TechnoLustLuddite at 7:10 AM on August 6, 2008


Here's another overactive-imagination test you can do:
Have a friend hold their finger about an inch away from your forehead, between your eyes, but not touching. Can you "feel" it?
posted by TechnoLustLuddite at 7:14 AM on August 6, 2008


I hate synaesthesiasts. They think they're superior life forms with unique insight into the nature of reality. They assume we have everything the learn from them, and they have nothing to learn from us. They feel entitled to our devotion and service!

I find your lack of slavish obedience...disturbing. [pinches fingers]
posted by sapere aude at 7:54 AM on August 6, 2008


I guess now would be a bad time in the conversation to ask if anyone heard two distinct, flat musical tones. Sort of the "Rhhhhhmmmm, rmmmmmmmmrh." sound described above. Kbye.
posted by louche mustachio at 9:12 AM on August 6, 2008


I'm seriously sleep deprived and I've just had two Czechvars. YMMV.
posted by louche mustachio at 9:13 AM on August 6, 2008


I have always associated digits and letters with personalities and gender. Is that synaesthetic?

Synaesthete and inveterate interview liar Aphex Twin claims to think of songs as boy songs and girl songs, except for the one he wrote that was a Girl/Boy Song.
posted by infinitewindow at 10:12 AM on August 6, 2008


I do the color/number thing, so I thought I might hear the dots. I didn't, but they made me feel profoundly ill. Like, almost threw up on the keyboard ill. So I don't know what that means.
posted by Biblio at 10:35 AM on August 6, 2008


Personally, I welcome our new synaesthetic overlords.
posted by nax at 11:18 AM on August 6, 2008


Hunh. I didn't get the sound, but I too do the whole "people's personalities have color" thing.... and I *can* see the colors around their heads and hands and whatnot. Never thought that might be a type of synaesthesia.

It's neat to hear that others have that too.
posted by WidgetAlley at 11:21 AM on August 6, 2008


Mine is color->sound. I hate yellow, as it is discordant. Textures in color produce different tambres. Volume is not strictly related to brightness, but the more I can SEE the color, the more annoying it is as I can't block it out. As others have said, it's all in my head so I can't cover my ears anymore.

I tend to close my eyes at concerts (and prefer those with chairs so I don't fall over) so I can hear the actual music. Excessive use of yellow lighting will ruin a show for me. Blues help, but only insomuch as the sound fits the music. Blue doesn't match everything, but it does get tight with things in A and F.

My joy of music is in fitting sounds to what I hear normally. I studied hard to make it all make sense. I had no idea this was 'different' until I got asked why I always closed my eyes. They didn't understand "I want to hear just the sounds." It was my third year of college before I even suspected something was off in my brain.

That said..

The dots have sounds, and moving has sounds, too, but I suspect it has something to do with the way I already process visual input. If I stop the motion, the sounds remain, just constant instead of changing tambre.
posted by dwivian at 11:23 AM on August 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


As a kid I remember trying to explain to a friends how people I met were all different colors (blue, red, green, etc). Don't see the colors or hear the sounds anymore, except under certain circumstances. Under these circumstances almost any external stimuli triggers multiple senses (same triggers produce the same results) which usually makes me feel a very warm and fuzzy sort of nostalgic for my childhood.
posted by silkygreenbelly at 11:38 AM on August 6, 2008


hey! biblio! are you serious about feeling sick after watching the video? i was scared to watch it for fear the same thing would happen to me.

i get the colors/numbers/words things relating to sensations that crossover. but i also get totally unnerved by some things. and those moving dots came with a premonition of, "don't you dare while you're at work..."

and to everybody else out there claiming synaesthetic sensibilities: do you find that the implied/resultant colors correspond to locations in your body? and feelings of pressure or any other physical phenomenon?

hell. let's go for it: does anybody get this kind of stuff from concepts???

whooooo...
posted by artof.mulata at 11:42 AM on August 6, 2008


Just as a data point, I have absolutely no synaesthesia. Numbers don't have colors, letters don't have colors, colors don't have sounds, sounds don't have colors. All of the above sound ridiculous to me, although there's certainly enough evidence to believe that some people really experience them.

No sound in the linked video for me.

I'm surprised by how many people describe an "imaginary" sound. I wonder if that's synaesthesia or if it's just people having a stronger imagination than I have. I can go "whee, whoo" while the video plays and then shut up and imagine the sound continuing, but there's no natural tendency to imagine a sound, and an imagined sound is VERY clearly distinct from a real one.
posted by mmoncur at 1:06 PM on August 6, 2008


I feel like I hear some faint sound -- something like wheee...whooo but I can't be sure if I'm not just imagining things. Do those who have synaesthesia hear these sounds very loudly or can it be faint as well?
posted by peacheater at 3:02 PM on August 6, 2008


Do those who have synaesthesia hear these sounds very loudly or can it be faint as well?

I was surprised that I heard something but I did. It was kind of a whish/whoosh and it was very faint. I turned up the volume on my computer to see if it was some kind of a line-noise-y effect but it didn't change.

Biblio and artof.mulata - I feel kind of woosy now too, like I spend too much time breathing gas fumes.
posted by djeo at 3:57 PM on August 6, 2008


A few of the comments here seem to imply that the evidence for synaesthesia is all self-reported, along the lines of this thread here. This is not the case. There is very strong evidence for many varieties of synaesthesia, usually from studies along the lines of the one in the article. The ability to pick out certain patterns can be seriously hampered by hiding them in a lot of sensory noise. But if the pattern that you're looking for is associated to a synaethetic effect, then it stands out much more clearly. Those who report strong synaesthesia (in this case, that they genuinely hear a sound, as opposed to just mentally associating a sound) are able to excel at these tasks, and those that don't, don't. For example, number-color synaesthesia is sometimes tested by showing a field of digits (often 5s and 2s) in a variety of orientations. For most people, when they see this field for only a fraction of a second, they are able to recognize that there's a field of 5s and 2s, but not any particular pattern. Those with number-color synaesthesia will be able to tell that the 5s are arranged in a circle because they see a colored circle in that brief instant (I seem to remember that some sometimes don't even know that the circle is made up of 5s, they just saw a colored circle, but I could be misremembering). So for these people, it's not just a case of a conscious association; it's happening on a deeper level, before they even think about what they're seeing. Of course, I'm sure that some of the self-reports here may not fall into this category, but it would be a mistake to assume that all synaesthesia research has this same problem.
posted by ErWenn at 4:26 PM on August 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


All these comments stink!
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:54 PM on August 6, 2008 [2 favorites]


Just as a data point, I have absolutely no synaesthesia. Numbers don't have colors, letters don't have colors, colors don't have sounds, sounds don't have colors. All of the above sound ridiculous to me, although there's certainly enough evidence to believe that some people really experience them.

Same here. I am sure it is a real 'condition' for some people, but I have also met quite a few fakes out there (I studied music for quite some time). The desperation for some people to be special would be laughable if it wasn't so sad.
posted by Megami at 11:32 PM on August 6, 2008


i also had the impression of a humming sound that changes to a lower pitch when the flow reverses, but i'm not so sure about any kind of synaestheshia in the traditional sense of the term.

Though i have had a few instances where i associate colours with smells, i.e. when i'm feeling sick, burnt toast smells green, or maybe i'll be reading something and some words or numbers in the middle of a sentence have some peculiar resonance (like dejavu), or some everyday things taste white/yellow/purple, but i kinda associate that sense with branding and packaging now, though i can barely recall the original sensation.

since the clip's so short, i replayed it a few times and that might have just reinforced the idea that there should be a reaction, so perhaps there should be a series, or just more anecdotal tests perhaps.

i.e. maybe i "wanted" there to be a sound, so i heard one, or maybe i just have a cultural imperative subconsciously attaching creative sounds to visual objects like ocean waves, falling anvils, moving/floating starships on TV, etc.
posted by toliman at 1:24 AM on August 7, 2008


I got nothin'.
One of the kids has reported numbers = colors since she was a toddler. We were amazed, but we never questioned her. She's now almost 40, and the same numbers are still the same colors. Her sister, 6 years younger, doesn't see them.
Her parents see nothing. I don't hear the sounds from the dots.
posted by unrepentanthippie at 5:15 PM on August 7, 2008


Synaesthesia sounds interesting. I wish I could experience something that unique.
posted by rthgreen at 3:11 PM on August 8, 2008


A few of the comments here seem to imply that the evidence for synaesthesia is all self-reported, along the lines of this thread here.

Failure to distinguish between "self-reported" synaesthesia (which is almost always not synaesthesia in neurological terms) and "real" synaesthesia (which is usually a very disorienting and unpleasant, and sometimes literally maddening, condition) is the bane of all discussions of this subjects.

Everyone sees colors when they hear music. They see colors when they taste food. Close your eyes and you will see colors regardless of other stimuli. But most color associations with sound are cultural, not neurobiological.

And all those composers who anecdotally claimed (or are claimed to) have been synaesthetes?

Not.
posted by fourcheesemac at 9:38 AM on August 10, 2008


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