Synesthesia: Do You Hear in Color?
[Updated from April 08, 2009] Do you hear in color? Many people do! And this is just one form of crossing perceptual modalities. Since this trait can impact learning, it is important to be aware of it and how it can be a gift or a challenge – or both!
I have always associated colors with different things such as sounds, words/concepts, days/months, and even letters/numbers. I also perceive all of these, and many other things, to have genders and personalities. My first clue that not everyone thought this way was when, as a child, I asked my grandmother if my ring finger was a girl or a boy. She told me that all of my fingers were girls because I am a girl. I decided to not ask Grandma these types of questions.
There are tests you can take, but they have some limitations. My scores on a battery of tests I took range from .36 to .76, and anything below 1.0 is considered synesthesia. The tricky part for me is that I sometimes perceive more than one color as well as textures (thick liquid, metal, etc.), and the battery of tests didn’t account for this. Also, colors can cause emotional and even physical reactions, especially with certain hues or color combinations. A thing I wasn’t tested for was my association with physical sensations and pitches/frequencies of sound.
People who have this “sensory crossing” are impacted in how they perceive and process information, which includes learning. It makes the perceptual modality aspect of “learning styles” a bit more complex. However, it can also be used to one’s advantage (i.e. color-coding notes or using different highlighters, or associating different music, etc.); it is a very personalized process for each person.
Sometimes there can be modality interference; for example, what if a teacher’s concept map or feedback put things in colors that don’t match what the student’s perception is of those concepts? In my experience, this can be rather distracting! Ideally, the student would be able to adjust the colors to match his or her perceptions.
By the way, there seems to be a genetic link. My youngest daughter has strong synesthesia associations; however, they are different from mine as there is no link for what the actual associations will be.
Think you might experience synesthesia? If so, you can try one or more tests: http://synesthete.org/
I would love to hear what your results were!