synesthesia — sih-ness-THEE-zhuh () rhymes with “anesthesia”
synesthetic (adj.) — the quality of synesthesia synesthetic — sih-ness-THEH-tick () rhymes with “anesthetic” & “synthetic”
synesthete (noun) — a person with synesthesia synesthete — SIH-ness-theet () rhymes with “esthete”
If you mouse over the letters,
they show my personal colors
for the letters in the word synesthesia. The colors are
truly projected onto each of
the letters when I see them
naturally in black-and-white.
The word itself happens to sound rather silvery to me,
though, disimilarly enough.
about the condition
Synesthesia is a neurological condition in which a stimulus in one sense modality is involuntarily elicited in another sense modality. For instance, someone with synesthesia (called a synesthete) may be able to see sounds, taste shapes, or read otherwise black-and-white printed words in color.
Synesthesia is thought to occur in anywhere from one in 1:200 to 1:2,000 people. In infant (and younger) humans, it has been shown that synesthesia could even be standard up until three months of age, in that infants may at least see sounds, if not have other synesthetic perceptions. Synesthesia is also thought to commonly occur in other types of animals as well. Both science and the public are rediscovering this exciting condition, which was well-known over a century ago, yet was ignored when behaviourism became the popular in psychology. With recent advancements in science and technology, more data is discovered about synesthesia every day. Further, with this knowledge, synesthesia may be helpful in understanding human consciousness, as well as something as straightforward as the different levels of human brain function.
A synesthete can be an associator, a projector, or both. To explain the difference between associator and projector synesthetes, I will use the type of synesthesia known as chromagraphemia: An associator synesthete of this type simply gets a “feeling” of color when looking at a letter – he can “think” or “know” the letter A is red, yet not actually see any red anywhere, whereas when a projector synesthete sees an A, he would literally – and involuntarily – project color out onto it; so, he would actually see red superimposed onto the written letter A. Projector chromagraphemic synesthetes realize that the text they are reading is black (or whatever color it really is), yet they see synesthetic color as well when they read. According to Dr. Merikle, only around a couple per hundred chromagraphemic synesthetes are projectors; the rest are associators. For other types of synesthesia, such as projected colored hearing, the experiences are projected outside the body in a way which looks like an image on a 3D screen, as opposed to being seen as an image in the mind’s eye. I personally can “project” my experiences anywhere from right inside my head to many feet away. Usually the experience dictates where the image is to be seen (as with chromagraphemia).