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Old 07-07-2009, 03:28 PM
otorophile is offline
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Personal experiences with synesthesia?


I'm curious for personal anecdotes about having synesthesia. From what I've read, it seems like a pretty fascinating condition, but I don't really feel like dropping acid to find out firsthand. How is it manifested in you? To what severity? Can you control it at all? Does it effect your daily life?
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Old 07-07-2009, 03:56 PM
Malleus, Incus, Stapes! is offline
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I'm a synesthete, from a family of synesthetes. I'll go get sometjhing to eat, then I'll answer your question when my blood sugar's high enough.
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Old 07-07-2009, 04:32 PM
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I visualize sounds and concepts. For example, songs generally look like abstract paintings, often with curving/linear/fractal patterns. Also, the number 5 is red. I can enhance or ignore it if I choose, but it's not really possible to completely eliminate it.
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Old 07-07-2009, 04:45 PM
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Okay, I'm back and fortified with popcorn.

I have a lot of synethesia, mainly

graphemes-->color
music-->color
concepts-->color

I don't actually see the colors in front of me, except for graphemes (more on that below). Instead, it just seems the way it should be. Like, if someone were to ask you what color the word "sky" should be, you'd probably say blue. You don't see the blue in front of you, you just associate blue=sky. The same way, if you ask me what color October is, I'd say brown, because I associate October=brown.

With graphemes, it gets a bit weirder. If you show me a paper that says CAT on it, I know the letters are written in black. I see them in black. But they look different shades of black to me. The C is a redder sort of black, the A is a yellowish black, and the T is a green black. The little red numbers on a timer are still red, but 4 would be a bluish red.

It is very hard for me to depict my alphabet, because some letters come in different shades, some have secondary colors, some are multicolored, and some are only vaguely defined. ("What shade of green did you say L was?" "Er... green green. I dunno, just... plain green.") I've done my best here and here.

Most of my colored hearing is musical in nature. Certain genres tend to certain colors- Middle Eastern music is usually a swirly sort of red, orange, or yellow. Rap is black and white, or sometimes sepia. I usually listen to religious Jewish music, which makes it really hard to talk about because nobody else has heard of it.

"Conceptual synesthesia" covers pretty much everything that isn't sensory in nature. The most common concept syn is having colors or spatial positions for time. There's also really really random stuff. From what I've seen, it's not uncommon for a synnie to suddenly realize that their shoe size is hexagonal, or that copper and silver are more feminine than gold. I personally have synethetic associations for Shakespeare plays, biblical figures, and the word "mellow". Oh, and my concept for "right" is positioned on the left, and my "left" is actually to my right. Yes, I am very bad with directions.

I also have occasional colors for scents, pain, and taste. Sickly-sweet scents are often purple-pink, and pungent smells are on the yellow-orange-brown spectrum. I don't seem to have reactions to pleasant odors very much. Taste is the rarest trigger for me- 99% of foods give me no reaction whatsoever.

If you're interested, I have a bunch of synesthetic pictures on Flickr.

Also, if you really want to know about synesthesia, there's a synnie message board Mixed Signals (mixsig.net). They love to answer people's questions there.

So, that's my 2c. Anything else you want to know?
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Old 07-07-2009, 06:16 PM
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Your "chocolate" image is really close to how I perceive it. Crazy.
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Old 07-07-2009, 06:17 PM
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I'm mildly synesthetic when it comes to sounds and smells. I say 'mildly' because I saw a chap on TV who was plagued by horrible sensation of taste when he heard certain words. I'm nothing like that.

I've been a musician since I was a kid, and have always found pitches to have a colour-like something about them, as though I wasn't only hearing them. As I got older, I realised that it was the intervals between pitches, as much as pitches themselves, that had colour associations. I didn't know of synesthesia until much later, so I always imagined that I must have somehow made them up, but they've remained consistent over the years.

For example, the intervals within several modes of the major scale have a colour. The strongest is the Lydian mode, where the interval of a #11 has the brightest colour of all, a light teal green/blue. I always wonder if it's significant that a perfect 4th is a more nondescript green.

The other strange thing is that of all the colours I 'smell' (for me it's not REALLY like smelling, it only takes a fraction of a second to realise that it's just a cross-modal artifact), that 'sharp eleven' blue/green is the strongest. It smells almost like a lady's perfume, but slightly juicy and spritzy. Often I'll smell that colour before I consciously see it, even. My mother's old kitchen cupboards were that colour, and I'd often think there must be someone else in the room when I first went in.

The OTHER weird thing is that I did end up with tinted Irlen Lenses (as I described in another thread - I'm more convinced of their efficacy every day, by the way, despite having had doubts) and you'll never guess what colour they are!
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Old 07-07-2009, 08:06 PM
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I see you associate letters of the English and Hebrew alphabets with colors. Is there any association with alphabets you aren't familiar with, like Arabic, or Chinese characters?

Can you "concentrate" your synthesthesiatic sense on a word or sound to make it have a response. I mean if you hear, say, a motor humming, and it had no effect on you, could you focus on it to bring out its color?

If you could take a pill to make it all go away, would you?
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Old 07-07-2009, 08:16 PM
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I only have colors for languages I know. I think if I learned another language, I might get colors then.

Some sounds immediately suggest colors, and some I have to think about for a while.

I love having synesthesia and would never ever give it up.
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Old 07-07-2009, 09:04 PM
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For me and my daughter, it is so specific as to probably not be considered legit. I can taste the colour green. It has a very pleasant tase. My favourite flavour being that of a dark green (emerald). It started in high school. My daughter is about the same age now that I was when mine started -- she sees the colour gray for a specific texture of food. It is not pleasant to her. It slipped out one day "this <I forget what the food was> tastes like gray!" Nothing else that I know of for either of us, but (and I can only truly speak for myself) it is not psychological, it is very real to me.
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Old 07-07-2009, 09:57 PM
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According to the experts at Mixed Signals, you don't have to respond to everything to have synesthesia. You might only taste green, but if the taste is consistant over time, it's still synesthesia.
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Old 07-07-2009, 10:10 PM
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I see some sounds - certain sounds are accompanied by flashes of color (motorcycles are purple, fridge motors kicking on are are white, my fish flinging his gravel against the tank glass is black and white etc) whether my eyes are open or not. It's more annoying than facinating. I can't imagine how terrible it would be to be severely affected since I know my experiences are at the mild end.
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Old 07-07-2009, 10:40 PM
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Words are concrete objects for me. I suspect it's tied to the way phonemes are ordered in my wee brain -- for example, wide open a's are warm and e's are small and cool.

"Resplendent" is the word I usually use to illustrate because it starts out small and folded at the top, and then swirls out into a wide fan at the end.

"Sang" is a quick bright concave arcing flash.

This also applies to names -- "Jensen" is narrow and cool gunmetal fading. However, "Spencer" is a sandstone step down into the dark.
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Old 07-08-2009, 07:11 AM
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Voices have colours to me. It's not controllable; it's also not distracting or anything. It just is.
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Old 07-08-2009, 12:35 PM
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To me, letters and numbers have very specific genders. For example, it seems perfectly self-evident to me that 2 is female but 8 is male. A is female but B is male. Is that related in any way?
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Old 07-08-2009, 12:49 PM
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Yup. Graphemes-->personalities.
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Old 07-08-2009, 01:21 PM
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Cool! I thought I just had an overactive imagination.
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Old 07-08-2009, 02:26 PM
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I have a very mild form of synesthesia. Some words - but not all - have a taste to me. The one with the strongest taste is the word angry. It tastes like sausage. Not sausage links, but sausage patties with lots of sage. When I say or think of a word that has a taste to me, it doesn't affect my life at all. I actually don't mind it. But there's no controlling it. A word tastes like something or it doesn't. That's it.
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Old 07-08-2009, 03:26 PM
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Quote:
To me, letters and numbers have very specific genders. For example, it seems perfectly self-evident to me that 2 is female but 8 is male. A is female but B is male. Is that related in any way?
Same way with me, starting in elementary school. Numbers have genders, personalities, relationships with other numbers. 1-4 tend to be friends with each other. 9 is a bit of a bully with 8 as its sidekick, other numbers don't like to be multipled/added/divided etc with them. Prime numbers tend to be loners since they don't work well with others. 10 of course could kick 9's ass, but is more like an older sibling that is several years ahead and doesn't bother much with the smaller ones.

I figure it's more overactive imagination and the fact that learning arithmetic was boring. Is that a common thing, anthropomorphizing concepts?
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Old 07-08-2009, 03:33 PM
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Originally Posted by overlyverbose View Post
I have a very mild form of synesthesia. Some words - but not all - have a taste to me. The one with the strongest taste is the word angry. It tastes like sausage. Not sausage links, but sausage patties with lots of sage. When I say or think of a word that has a taste to me, it doesn't affect my life at all. I actually don't mind it. But there's no controlling it. A word tastes like something or it doesn't. That's it.
Never heard of this, so fight my ignorance - does this mean that, when you hear the word angry, you get a sausage taste in your mouth? What if you speak it or read it?

I do associate genders with letters, colors and numbers, and also my silverware. I also assign genders to things like fruit and my pens (often related to their color). I'm off to do some research, since I thought this was something everyone did..
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Old 07-08-2009, 04:01 PM
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Originally Posted by Sateryn76 View Post
Never heard of this, so fight my ignorance - does this mean that, when you hear the word angry, you get a sausage taste in your mouth? What if you speak it or read it?
That's exactly what happens, whether I'm hearing the word, reading it, speaking it or just thinking of it. With some words, like angry, it's so strong, I can smell them, too, and almost feel the texture in my mouth. The word green is like that. It's creamy and cool and smells fresh. Fortunately, most words that taste have pleasant tastes, but there are some that taste like mud.

I think the type of synesthesia I experience is called lexical-gustatory synesthesia.

Last edited by overlyverbose; 07-08-2009 at 04:03 PM.
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Old 07-08-2009, 04:42 PM
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Mmm, when I was a little kid, colors had gender. I remember separating my crayons into a "boy" group and a "girl" group. Red was always "male," and blue was always "female," for instance. This sounds like it would really be stretching to call this synesthesia, though. I figured it was some weird facet of my psychology (blue = cold = female? red = hot = male? Who knows.)

Colors still seem either male or female to me, but it's not something I think about.

Last edited by PoorYorick; 07-08-2009 at 04:43 PM.
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Old 07-08-2009, 06:14 PM
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I have grapheme-color synesthesia--I was so happy to find out in my teens that what I did had a name (I just thought everybody could do it!) I used to make up code names for things based on the color of their real names. Nowadays being able to see color for letters and numbers isn't terribly useful, but it's fun and I enjoy it. People invariably ask me what color their names are when I tell them I'm a synesthete, which makes a good conversation starter. The only place I really find it useful is that I'm convinced that it's responsible for the fact that I'm a near-perfect speller--once I learn a word, I rarely forget how to spell it because part of learning the spelling is learning the word's color.

My spousal unit sees sounds--he gets colors and patterns in his head when he hears people talk or hears music. I refer to it as "making his own music videos," and I wish I had that kind because it sounds more fun than mine. I wish he was artistic, because I've often thought that a painting (or better yet, an animation) showing what he sees when he hears songs would be very cool.
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Old 07-08-2009, 06:16 PM
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Originally Posted by PoorYorick View Post
Mmm, when I was a little kid, colors had gender. I remember separating my crayons into a "boy" group and a "girl" group. Red was always "male," and blue was always "female," for instance. This sounds like it would really be stretching to call this synesthesia, though. I figured it was some weird facet of my psychology (blue = cold = female? red = hot = male? Who knows.)

Colors still seem either male or female to me, but it's not something I think about.

You have it totally backwards - red is clearly a girl, along with yellow, white and orange, and blue is a boy, just like green, black and purple.

I was reading, and apparently there were some good arguments between composers about what color the scales were...
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Old 07-09-2009, 12:34 PM
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Out of curiosity, are there any dopers out there whose young children have exhibited synesthesia? Only time will tell if my son has it (i.e., if he stops making the associations he has been), but he's been telling me for a while that the living room windows make a mad face and that they're girls. He consistently personifies other inanimate, non-animal/human-looking objects, too, like his shoes, which are boys. It might just be his imagination, though. He's only 3, and from the research I've done, it sounds like it could be something that maybe he just hasn't yet grown out of. I had very similar experiences when I was younger.

I asked him how that made him feel and he said it made him happy. I just told him it was ok to see those things (and mentioned that I used when I was younger, too), but that he needed to tell me immediately if they made him nervous.
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Old 07-09-2009, 01:00 PM
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Malleus, Incus, Stapes! has helped me understand my very mild form -
Quote:
Conceptual synesthesia" covers pretty much everything that isn't sensory in nature. The most common concept syn is having colors or spatial positions for time.
I see and have always seen a year as an egg shape. June, July, August are the oval bottom with December the pointy top. I only learned a year ago that everyone doesn't have shapes for time.
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Old 07-09-2009, 01:53 PM
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Originally Posted by Heckity View Post
Malleus, Incus, Stapes! has helped me understand my very mild form -

I see and have always seen a year as an egg shape. June, July, August are the oval bottom with December the pointy top. I only learned a year ago that everyone doesn't have shapes for time.
From the Wikipedia article: "In spatial-sequence, or number form synesthesia, numbers, months of the year, and/or days of the week elicit precise locations in space (for example, 1980 may be "farther away" than 1990), or may have a (three-dimensional) view of a year as a map (clockwise or counterclockwise)."

I have this too, but my year is shaped more like a teardrop lying on its side pointing left. The late summer/early fall months are in this corner, with the spring and summer months taking up the curved part of the tear. Interestingly, the months are not distributed evenly, and the summer months take up more space along the line than other seasons. That is, if one were walking along my calendar, you'd have to run through the summer and walk through the other seasons to maintain a constant amount of time spent in each month's segment. Perhaps this is an artifact of childhood summers going by too quickly.
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Old 07-09-2009, 02:02 PM
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A great (fictional) story on this topic is The Empire of Ice Cream by Jeffery Ford
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Old 07-09-2009, 02:22 PM
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Originally Posted by otorophile View Post
I'm curious for personal anecdotes about having synesthesia. From what I've read, it seems like a pretty fascinating condition, but I don't really feel like dropping acid to find out firsthand. How is it manifested in you? To what severity? Can you control it at all? Does it effect your daily life?
Like a few others in the thread, I have a pretty mild synesthesia which primarily manifests in numbers, letters, colors, months, states, etc., having gender. It's not really a matter of "seeing" it for me, it's just the way things are.

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Originally Posted by filling_pages View Post
To me, letters and numbers have very specific genders. For example, it seems perfectly self-evident to me that 2 is female but 8 is male. A is female but B is male.
What? That's all wrong! Eight a dude? Pshaw!

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Originally Posted by Sateryn76 View Post
You have it totally backwards
Damn straight!

Quote:
red is clearly a girl, along with yellow, white and orange, and blue is a boy, just like green, black and purple.
Hold on? White is female and purple is male? You're nuts!!!

But seriously, as the OP can see from this exchange, tongue and cheek as it is, synasthetes, at least of our type, don't process these associations in any artificial way. I know intellectually that Sateryn and I are both wrong about purple having any gender, but for the life of me I just can't process his (her?) statement as anything other than an obvious falsehood, just like if he had written "Purple and green are the same color." Obviously, they're not. Just as obviously, purple is female. It's as plain as day, and it even sort of surprises me that you don't "realize" it. Indeed, when I was a kid, I remember having conversations with my parents about it, where I thought it was so strange that when people were making up numbers, they didn't space them out boy-girl-boy-girl, but stuck 7 (clearly male) in the middle of a run of girls (5, 6, 8, and 9 all being distaff digits). Because at the time, I assumed that everybody else saw the same genders I did.

The OP might want to run a search on synesthesia. Similar threads pop up every several months, I guess because whenever one of you non-synesthetes hears about it, it seems such a bizarre way of processing information.

--Cliffy
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Old 07-09-2009, 03:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Saint Cad View Post
A great (fictional) story on this topic is The Empire of Ice Cream by Jeffery Ford
Another one is A Mango-Shaped Space by Wendy Mass (it's a YA novel, but she's got synesthesia down pretty well. I wrote her a note after I read it and she responded, telling me that she'd spent quite awhile talking to synesthetes and researching the condition before writing the book.)
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Old 07-09-2009, 04:06 PM
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A great (fictional) story on this topic is The Empire of Ice Cream by Jeffery Ford
When I first saw a link to this story, I didn't realize it was fiction. Started out normally enough for a synesthete, with colors and tastes for sounds. When he started seeing the girl with the coffee, I was taken aback but figured it was a syn-induced hallucination. Then it turned out the girl was real, and I was like, "Waaait just a minute here..."
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Old 07-09-2009, 08:08 PM
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I think of numbers as specific color but don't literally see them in color when looking at them written, so I guess it's a pretty mild case.
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Old 07-09-2009, 10:55 PM
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I've tripped on acid several times and not had the famous synesthesia experiences from it. Nor do I see the "trails" everyone goes on & on about. I get one and only one visual "hallucination": at a certain focal range, usually a couple yards or so, the surfaces of things often seem to be moving. Writhing, almost, as if covered in a layer of gypsy moth caterpillars.

I have synaesthetic imagination, as others in this thread report: not so much a vivid sensory experience in one sense of something encountered normatively in another sense, but rather THINKING about this or that ==> some visual or multimedia or (less often) auditory representation of that thought.

Complex concepts get turned into nouns that get shapes and may exhibit force lines illustrating their relationship to other complex concepts. Sometimes they play out like movies with trajectories, plots even.
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