Inside a Synesthete’s Mind

Lydia Wood, Staff Reporter

When you think of the sun, what colors come to mind? What about the beach? Are they vibrant yellows or mysterious blues? 

What about letters and numbers? Do you think of the shapes first or where you see them used, like billboards and books? Do you see the font first?

Grapheme Synesthesia is a condition where letters of the alphabet, normally typed up in black print, show up associated with colors in a person’s mind. Synesthesia is not a disability or disease, in fact Boston University conducted a study on synesthetes that showed they do better on memory and intelligence based tests.

Synesthesia itself is a neurological condition in which one sense (such as hearing) is simultaneously perceived by one or more additional senses (like taste or sight). 

Along with Grapheme Synesthesia, there are three other commonly known types of synesthesia. There is Mirror-touch, where the synesthetes feel the same emotions as someone else. Chromesthesia is where sound heard by the person are portrayed as colors, it’s one of the closer ones to Grapheme. Another one is Lexical-gustatory, this is one of the more rare types of synesthesia. Lexical-gustatory synesthesia is when the synesthete has a link between words and taste, where a word is associated with a certain taste.

The American Psychological Association, covered an article on two people, Carol Crane and Sean Day, who both have a type of synesthesia. In their article, “Everyday fantasia: the world of synesthesia,” they explain important scientific milestones and developments that led to being able to know more about synesthesia. For example, they talk about how a wave of synesthesia popped up in the 1970s. They also talk about the implications of synesthesia’s effect on psychology and certain parts of the brain. They talk about how synesthesia can tap into the nature of perception and whether or not synesthesia is controlled by one particular gene.

‘The Synesthesia Network’ is another website that is built around learning about the facts, statistics, news and tests on synesthesia.

Bernadette Sheridan is a grapheme synesthetes. On her website, she talks about how it’s hard for her to remember names due to the way she processes them. She developed a website called Synesthesia.Me, a website where people can go and type in their name to see what colors would be associated with it. 

While all synesthetes are different, there are still a lot of commonalities among what color certain letters or numbers would be. So while you’re looking at the colors on your name, it may not be a true relation to all synesthetes. The website shows you what Sheridan sees when you put your name into the search bar. 

Each letter is a different color, but it doesn’t change based on the name. There are twenty-six colors for the twenty-six letters, ranging in all different shades of colors. 

In addition to being able to see what your name looks like on the website, Sheridan also had an Etsy shop, where you can purchase different digital and printed layouts for your name.

With this website, Sheridan gives a better look into the mind of synesthesia and how synesthetes process names and information they take in.