Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Hearing Colors And Seeing Sounds: How Real Is Synesthesia?

Date:
July 26, 2007
Source:
Association for Psychological Science
Summary:
In the psychological phenomenon known as "synesthesia," individuals' sensory systems are a bit more intertwined than usual. Some people, for example, report seeing colors when musical notes are played. New research tests how real these claims are.

In the study, participants had to name the color of the font that a color word is printed in. For example, if the word "blue" was printed in red ink, the participant would say "red" -- a moderately difficult task that requires some mental gymnastics.
Credit: ScienceDaily

In the psychological phenomenon known as "synesthesia," individuals' sensory systems are a bit more intertwined than usual. Some people, for example, report seeing colors when musical notes are played.

Related Articles


One of the most common forms is grapheme-color synesthesia, in which letters or numbers (collectively called "graphemes") are highlighted with particular colors. Although synesthesia has been well documented, it is unknown whether these experiences, reported as vivid and realistic, are actually being perceived or if they are a byproduct of some other psychological mechanism such as memory.

New research published in the June issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, sheds some light on the veracity of these perceptions.

Danko Nikolic, a researcher from the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research in Frankfurt, Germany, and his colleagues relied on a variation of a classic psychological method known as the Stroop task to test this. In this task, participants must name the color of the font that a color word is printed in. For example, if the word "blue" was printed in red ink, the participant would say "red" -- a moderately difficult task that requires some mental gymnastics.

To understand Nikolic's version of the experiment, a rudimentary understanding of color perception is required: When anyone views a particular color, specific neurons in the visual cortex area of our brain are activated. These specific neurons will deactivate, however, if a color from the opposite end of the spectrum is presented. So, any neuron activated when the color blue is present will deactivate when it's exact opposite, yellow, comes into the visual field.

Using this logic, Nikolic presented grapheme-color synesthetes with their five most color eliciting letters or numbers. The color of the letter or number was either the same as its common association (congruent), different but not completely opposite of the color association (incongruent independent), or on the opposite end of the spectrum from the associated color (opponent incongruent). The researchers then measured how long it took the participants to name the color of the grapheme.

As expected, opponent incongruent colors made it quite difficult for individuals with grapheme-color synesthesia to respond quickly. It took participants much longer to name opponent incongruent colors than independent incongruent colors. Congruent colors -- colors that matched the association -- actually facilitated the process of naming the colors.

In a separate experiment, the researchers found that this color-opponency system did not work for memories. They presented the same participants with pictures of objects that a color is commonly associated with (a lemon, for example). But like the previous experiment, the objects were in unexpected colors. Reaction times in this experiment were significantly less impeded by the color change and did not differ from reaction times of control subjects who were not synesthetes. Coupled with the results from the first experiment, these findings suggest that synesthetic colors are perceived in a realistic way, just as synesthetes report.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Association for Psychological Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Association for Psychological Science. "Hearing Colors And Seeing Sounds: How Real Is Synesthesia?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 July 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/07/070724113711.htm>.
Association for Psychological Science. (2007, July 26). Hearing Colors And Seeing Sounds: How Real Is Synesthesia?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 18, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/07/070724113711.htm
Association for Psychological Science. "Hearing Colors And Seeing Sounds: How Real Is Synesthesia?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/07/070724113711.htm (accessed April 18, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Our Love Of Puppy Dog Eyes Explained By Science

Our Love Of Puppy Dog Eyes Explained By Science

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2015) Researchers found a spike in oxytocin occurs in both humans and dogs when they gaze into each other&apos;s eyes. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Find Link Between Gestational Diabetes And Autism

Scientists Find Link Between Gestational Diabetes And Autism

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2015) Researchers who analyzed data from over 300,000 kids and their mothers say they&apos;ve found a link between gestational diabetes and autism. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Video Messages Help Reassure Dementia Patients

Video Messages Help Reassure Dementia Patients

AP (Apr. 17, 2015) Family members are prerecording messages as part of a unique pilot program at the Hebrew Home in New York. The videos are trying to help victims of Alzheimer&apos;s disease and other forms of dementia break through the morning fog of forgetfulness. (April 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Common Pain Reliever Might Dull Your Emotions

Common Pain Reliever Might Dull Your Emotions

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2015) Each week, millions of Americans take acetaminophen to dull minor aches and pains. Now researchers say it might blunt life&apos;s highs and lows, too. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins