Saturday, October 09, 2004

What is synaesthesia?

Synaesthesia is a harmless condition in which people experience perceptual sensations that are not shared by most other members of the population. For example, people with synaesthesia may experience colours with letters, sounds, or words; they may experience shapes with tastes, or smells with sounds, to name a few varieties. It has a biological origin and is found in at least 1 in 2000 people.

There are many different types of synaesthesia which people living with the condition deal with on a day to day basis, Probably the two most common are 'chromatographic' (coloured letters/numerals) and coloured hearing. Other associations include: coloured/shaped/patterned/sequenced/textured/tasting etc.

Some people assume they have synaesthesia because they associate particular objects with fruit for instance, or colours with emotions or textures. However many of these assumptions are inaccurate they are arbitary signs, they are associations with particular objects, emotions and textures which we have learned through our up bringing or our reading of signs, gestures and our intellectual development throughout our childhoods.

On a very basic level arbitary signs are similar to the condition of synaesthesia however unlike arbitary signs synaesthetes have associations with letters, music, textures and food which have no relation to the conventions of semiotics (the study of signs) a true synaesthete may associate the letter 'B' with the colour pink, or think that chicken tastes spherical these associations are constant.

Here are some really good links for anyone wishing to find out more about synaesthesia:


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