5. Wake Up and Smell the Colour of 5


Your sensations.


Synesthesia is when perception from different senses is not fully separated. For example if I look at a painting by Soutine I experience a sort of (not unpleasant) smell/taste sensation as well as seeing the shapes and colours and this is quite a strong and realistic feeling. I don’t find the same effect with pictures in general, so this is quite hard to account for.

There are people who have much stronger forms of synesthisia and it comes in many different flavours. Those who have these cross-over sensations may find them extremely vivid.

People with strong synethesia are probably rare. But I suspect most of us experience it to some degree, and a common form may be an association between sequences and colours.

I’m not talking about the order of colours in the rainbow here but something quite specific to individual people. I’ll give my example at the end of the post.


Think of a sequence you are familiar with and like (I think liking and synesthisia might be mutually reinforcing).

Some possibilities are

  • Numbers
  • Letters of the alphabet.
  • Musical keys.
  • Dates (1066 and all that)
  • Geometrical shapes: triangles, squares and so on


Now think of the things in your chosen sequence, one by one. As you go consider if each has a colour, in your mind’s eye. Perhaps you never thought of it before, but you now experience colours: if so, are they the same and stable each time you think of the sequence?

What about other sequences? And perhaps you hear (not so surprising) or smell or taste (more unexpected you’ll agree) letters of the alphabet or numbers. What is the taste of a square, or the smell of 5?

What do you find? Please write and tell us.

I hope you enjoyed thinking about these surprising and beautiful possibilities.

Next experiment

The next post in the series, 6/101, will be ‘Earsight’.

My synesthesia

Musical keys: C Red, G Orange, D Green, A Green, E Yellow, B Green, F sharp Blue, C sharp Yellow, G sharp Orange, E flat Yellow, B flat Green, F Blue. This is quite vivid for me. It’s just the idea of the keys you understand: I’m not pitch-perfect or anything. C is red even if it’s out of key.


About partialinsight

One evening I had a stroke. Half my sight vanished overnight. Adapting made me grasp how amazing the visual system and brain are. It also taught me to understand disability completely differently and I'm grateful for the lesson.
This entry was posted in 101 experiments in seeing, Art and vision, The brain and visual perception, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s