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Can You Hear Colors?

Cassie Bennett, Staff Writer

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Synesthesia can be defined as “a neurological condition in which a person experiences ‘crossed’ responses to stimuli,” according to Psychology Today. Only about 4% of the population experience this neurological condition. While this is not always the case, many scientists believe this condition can be hereditary, or passed down from parents to their offspring. The word ‘Synesthesia’ derives from Greek language. “Syn” stands for together, and “esthesia” means perception. 

Someone who experiences this feeling is called a “synesthete.” This condition is in no way a disability or ailment of any kind; it is simply called a condition because it has to do with one’s mental state. Synesthesia causes no pain or negative feelings for those who have it. While this is not a broad area of study for scientists, the American Psychology Association states that “studies have confirmed… the phenomenon is biological, automatic and apparently unlearned, distinct from both hallucination and metaphor.” The small amount of studies that have been run show that most of the people who have it are women who are left-handed and of normal or above average intelligence. 

There are six characteristics that somebody must experience to be considered a synesthete. Their responses must be automatic, involuntary, consistent, unidirectional, intuitive, and focused. There are many types of synesthesia, including listening to music and seeing different colors or imaging certain numbers to be associated with specific letters. It all depends on which two (or more) senses cross when the brain neurologically fires. According to Scientific American, “Synesthetes hear colors, feel sounds and taste shapes.” 

Some of the types of synesthesia are as follows: Mirror-touch synesthesia, where somebody can see someone being touch and feel it themselves; Chromesthesia, where one perceives music in shapes or colors; or Lexical gustatory synesthesia, where words or numbers have a taste. However, the most common form of synesthesia is Grapheme-color synesthesia, where one perceives letters or numbers in colors. 

While this is a rare condition, the synesthetes who experience this uncommon feeling have a very unique perception of life. Just imagine what it’s like to see colors every time a song plays, or taste certain things upon viewing a number!  

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Can You Hear Colors?