As you might have learned from my first post, I like spending time on the Internet, especially on YouTube. As I was scrolling through ‘Popular on YouTube’ recently, a video called ‘Can you hear colors?’ from ‘Good Mythical Morning’ caught my attention. That’s how I found out about the phenomena called synesthesia.
Synesthesia is when one sense is automatically connected to another in your brain. For example when you hear the word ‘book’, you taste chicken, or when you see the number 3, you think of it as green. Only 1 in 2000 people have synesthesia and they are mostly women and left-handed. There are about 60 different types of synesthesia, but only a few cases could be well studied by scientists and doctors.
The most common type of synesthesia is color-graphemic synesthesia, where you associate numbers and letters with different colors. Only 2% of all synesthetes have never experienced thinking of a color, when seeing, reading or hearing a number or letter. The color can differ in transparency, nuance, pattern and it is different for every synesthete, some imagine A as being dark red, some see a blue halo around it.
There are different kinds of color-graphemic synesthetes, there are the ‘association-synesthetes, which see the color of a number when they think about it in their head, and there are the ‘projector-synesthetes’, who really see the colored number, as if it was printed, on the paper in front of them. I’m not sure if I really have color-graphemic synesthesia, but I definitely associate 3 with green and 5 with blue. Furthermore, numbers have personalities in my head, which is common as well, odd numbers are evil and even numbers are good.
But back to my headline, can you see time? I think I can, well, kind of. Another type of synesthesia is Time-Space Synesthesia or Spacio-Temporal Synesthesia, which helps me to map out days, months and years in my head. There are different maps for every kind of time sequence, a day, a week, the months, ages and a timeline of years. I always know exactly where I am on the map and what will happen next. In the picture above, you can see my overview of the year. It is like a circle around me and June is always the direction I’m looking at, probably because it’s my birthday month. Some months are longer and some are shorter, for example September, October and February, March are shorter than other months, because there are not a lot of very important events (sorry to everybody who’s birthday is in one of those months, but the map developed when I was smaller and I didn’t know you back then) like Christmas or the birthdays of my family members in there.
To give you another example, I drew how I see time in terms of ages, but, unfortunately, it doesn’t quite look the way it’s in my head, but it’s pretty similar to what I imagine. Every time I think of a person’s age, I see them on this timeline. I also know if I have any relatives or friends in a certain age group, e.g. between 70-80, just by looking at my own calendar in my head.
Last but not least, here’s a picture of the days of the week in my head. I have no idea why Saturday and Sunday are so long and all the weekdays are so short, because it’s actually the opposite in real life.
Research has also shown, that people with synesthesia have a better memory (on average). For example, in a test by psychologist David Brang, people were asked to remember an unfamiliar calendar and people with time space-synesthesia remembered 123 facts, while others could only recall 39.
Have you ever experienced anything similar to synesthesia? As I already said, I associate some numbers with colors/personalities and I have many different calendars in my head, but these two forms are not the only types of synesthesia. There’s mirror-touch synesthesia, in which you feel the pain that is inflicted upon somebody else, e.g. if I slapped your friend, you would feel it on your cheek; and lots of other kinds, like hearing colors, while listening to music or tasting words. If you’re curious to find out more about this, there are so many great articles online and there is even a website, where you can take tests, to see (I’m not sure if it really works), whether you have different kinds of synesthesia: https://www.synesthesiatest.org.
I hope you have learned something new today and btw, your username tastes like purple.