Sunday, November 7, 2010

Week 3 : Let's impress with Synesthesia (Part 2)

How to talk about synesthesia


"Don't shut the door please, I don't like the taste of it ", "Klein blue smell like a lily of the valley" " Your music is a firework of color"

Well as you can see synesthesia can be a very pleasent feeling and your friends concerned by beauty will necessarily envy those synesthetes that can experience enchanting sensations they will never feel. Actually they could by consuming psychedelic drugs but we highly recommend not to have such a behavior.

For them you will have to focus on exquisite talks such as in the videos below:


Well while you aesthetic friends were fine with thoses information, your scientific-minded friends will be more skeptical and will ask for proofs. No problem, a lot of experiments have been made, one of those is to ask non-synesthetes and synesthetes to find the geometric shape made by the "2"s on the picture below on the left.

It will be very long to non-synesthetes to find out while it is almost instantaneous for synesthetes because they see the left picture like the one on the right. 

Those interested in neuroscience will be glad to see in synesthesia a perfect example to demonstrate that the brain is fragmented in areas and that these areas can interact between them.

Each area is dedicated to a function

Those links between different area of the brain does not affect only synesthetes for example, in the picture below, acording to you, which shape is called Kiki and which one is called Bouba ?

95% to 98% of people answer the same thing, Kiki for the angular shape (on the left) and Bouba for the rouded one (on the right). Isn't it amazing ?!


They will appreciate to learn that some famous artists were synesthetes and that of course it had influenced their works, people such as:

               Jean Sibelius
               Nikolaï Rimski-Korsakov
               Olivier Messiae
               Franz Liszt
               Vassily Kandinsky (not sure)

 or contemporary such as:

               Pharell Williams
               Thom York (Radiohead)
               Richard D. James (Fall out Boys). 

You can easily refer to the poem "Voyelles" by Rimbaud and " Correspondances" by baudelaire but actually none of both were synesthete. 

But the most important would be to advise to read the book "Born On A Blue Day" an autobiography by Daniel Tammet, which may be the most intense case of synethesia, where he reveals a lot about his synesthesia and much more (he is an incredible character and his life is quite amazing).


  1. Another fascinating piece on a condition that has been also dealt with in literature...and critical theory (I know I'm always going back to critical theory). Theorists such a Walter Benjamin have discussed the idea that one needs to have a synesthetic vision of the world in order to understand it. We have a tendency to perceive the world through our eyes, so we rely on what we see which offers a very limited view of the conditions that regulate our life...According to Benjamin, there is a need for a more complex perception of the world that would be less referential (less based on what we see, taste, hear, touch) and more imaginative, creative, mixing all the usual sensations together and using creative imagination to make sense of the world...This is the cindition poets seek to reproduce when they produce their work.
    We can also wonder if synesthesia is not something that is on the verge of being accessible to everyone as new technologies will soon permit humans to establish connections between the world of the media (the image) and the world of senses through a connection between the physical body and the virtual world of the media...
    I did the Kiki and Bouba test...failed it, of course...

  2. Well ! Critical theory seems to be something we really should look at.
    What Walter Benjamin said is interesting, of course we need mutual referential in order to understand each other. But may-be the key to understand our own relation with the world is to open is mind to a more personal perception of it.
    The Kiki and Bouba test worked for both of us, it's a surprise it didn't work for you !

    Jelena and Nell

  3. Very interesting subject, which shows how the brain can be mysterious and powerful.
    Synesthesia is a gift, even if it could be disturbing for people who live with this mixing of sense. Like in the second video, Elizabeth did not understand what happen to her at the begining, she was thinking she was crazy. But it's give to her an increadible memory. Synaesthetes could be genius, learn a language in one week, do complex mental arithmetic with more precision than a computer.
    I would like to have one of this brain.

  4. We agree with you when you say that synesthesia is a gift, because not only synesthesia gives incredible capability but synesthetes are also in touch with some wonderful hidden beauty.

    Definitely, you are not the only one who wish to have one of those brains. We do too !

    Jelena and Nell