Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

One person out of every thousand has synaesthesia ...

27.12.2007
... a psychological phenomenon in which an individual can smell a sound or hear a colour

Most of these people are not aware they are synaesthetes and feel certain about the way they perceive things: they think the way they experience the world is normal. But, when they realize that something is not quite right, they become disappointed.

The research field has grown from grapheme-colour synaesthesia to include other forms of synaesthesia in which flavours are evoked by music or words (lexical-gustatory synaesthesia), space structures by time units, colours by music, etc.

Experts on Experimental Psychology from the University of Granada are studying this phenomenon. The results of this research have been published by the following scientific journals, among others: Cortex, Experimental Brain Research and Consciousness and Cognition.

Surprising as it may seem, there are people who can smell sounds, see smells or hear colours. Actually, all of as, at some point in our lives, have had this skill (some authors affirm that it is common in newborns). This phenomenon, called “synaesthesia” – from the Greek “syn” (with) and “aisthesis” (sensation) – consists of the pairing of two bodily senses by which the perception of a determined stimulus activates a different subjective perception with no external stimulus (in science, the evoker stimulus is called inducer and the additional experience concurrent).

In the department of Experimental Psychology and Physiology at the University of Granada, a research group is carrying out pioneer work in Spain on the systematic study of synaesthesia and its relation with perception and emotions. Professor Juan Lupiáñez Castillo and Alicia Callejas Sevilla have devoted many years to the study of this unknown but interesting phenomenon, which affects approximately one person out of every thousand. Many of these people do not even know that they are synaesthetes, as they think they perceive the world normally.

Pioneers

Callejas’ doctoral thesis is one of the most detailed studies on this phenomenon at an international level, and it is probably the first doctoral thesis on this topic in Europe. Her study covers the various forms of synaesthesia focussing on the most common one: the grapheme-colour type (for people with this form of synaesthesia, letters, words and numbers evoke colours in an automatic and involuntary way).

One of the distinctive characteristics of this form of synaesthesia is the fact that people are certain about their perceptions: they feel that their way of experiencing the world is correct, and they become disappointed when they realize there is something that is not quite right. ‘Therefore, when a person with grapheme-colour synaesthesia indicates that the word table is blue, it is quite probable that if he or she ever sees the same word written in a colour other than blue, this word will appear to him or her as wrong and consider it a mistake. The synaesthete might even point out that the word is ugly or that he or she does not like it because it is not correct,’ affirms Callejas. Consequently, finding the word table written in red might be unpleasant whereas seeing it in blue might be agreeable. This emotional reaction associated with how synaesthetes perceive consistent or inconsistent stimuli is an extremely interesting subject and has been studied for the first time in this doctoral thesis.

Irrepressible reactions

Some of Callejas’ conclusions show that these emotional reactions occur automatically and can not be ignored. Moreover, they can affect the synaesthete to the point of slanting his or her preferences when faced with certain stimuli which correspond to his or her inner experiences. Even more important is the fact that these emotions can transform how they perceive events associated with these experiences. These events may have no emotional meaning initially but they can become more or less pleasant if they take place at the same time the synaesthete finds a word in the correct or incorrect colour.

‘Then, there are people for whom time units evoke colours – explains the researcher. It is also common for a synaesthete to see colours when listening to words, sounds in general or music notes (people who can see music, for instance). There are also cases, although fewer, where people can see colours in flavours, others perceive flavours or experience touch sensations when listening to different sounds, some link flavours to touch sensations, etc.’

An permanent vision

These researchers from Granada underline that synaesthetes always experience the same vision, synaesthesia is permanent (a given stimulus always evokes the same colour for one person) and idiosyncratic (it is different for each person). Therefore, if for a synaesthete the word dog is red, every time he or she sees it, it will be perceived as red.

Even though synaesthesia has been known for a long time, its scientific study is relatively recent. Writings such as the Castel one, in which reference is made to previous studies about a synaesthesia case in a blind person, are found in the 18th century. The evolution of the study of this phenomenon has been spectacular – the number of researchers working on this topic is constantly increasing, as will be evident in the Conference which will take place in Granada – and, as the phase of proving that this phenomenon exists has been overcome, explains Alicia Callejas, ‘we are starting to approach questions of major theoretical importance, and to develop adequate study strategies.’ The results of her research have been published in the following prestigious scientific journals, among others: Cortex, Experimental Brain Research and Consciousness and Cognition.

Nowadays, the research field goes from grapheme-colour synaesthesia to other forms never studied before: flavours evoked by music or words (lexical-gustatory synaesthesia), space structures linked to time units, colours and music, etc.

Reference: Dr. Alicia Callejas Sevilla. Department of Experimental Psychology and Behaviour Physiology. University of Granada, Phone: +34 958 240 667 – +34 958 240 663. E-mail: callejas@ugr.es

Antonio Marín Ruiz | alfa
Further information:
http://prensa.ugr.es/prensa/research/verNota/prensa.php?nota=453

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Researchers release the brakes on the immune system
18.10.2017 | Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn

nachricht Norovirus evades immune system by hiding out in rare gut cells
12.10.2017 | University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Physics boosts artificial intelligence methods

19.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

NASA team finds noxious ice cloud on saturn's moon titan

19.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

New procedure enables cultivation of human brain sections in the petri dish

19.10.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>