The 11 types of synesthesia (and their characteristics)

Do you feel the colors? Savor sounds? Do you see the colorful letters? Assign personality to numbers?

As surprising as it may sound, there are many people who have the particularity of mixing sensations, a phenomenon known as synesthesia which can manifest in very different ways.

Some feel the colors, others taste the letters or see the touch … There are so many type of synesthesia that we could make an encyclopedia with them! Let’s find out which are the main ones.

    What is synesthesia?

    Can you imagine a completely different way of perceiving reality? At school, we were taught that there are 5 senses: hearing, taste, sight, touch and smell. These senses are each perceived by a different organ, in theory.

    Corn, what if we also hear a sound when touching a surface with a certain texture? What would the world be like if our sounds were mixed? Could it be chaos or an advantage? Read on to step into a whole different world.

    All our life, we have felt that there are 5 senses (there are really more, but for the moment we are not concerned by this debate). Human beings have hearing, sight, taste, smell and touch and each of these senses is perceived with a different organ: we see with our eyes, we smell with our ears, we taste with our tongue, we smell with our nose and we touch with our own skin. But what if we hear a melody when we play something? What if, upon hearing a song, we saw a vivid multicolored landscape? we call this synesthesia.

    Synesthesia is a phenomenon whereby sensory perception occurs simultaneously through two different senses, which are interconnected.. For example, some people hear colors when they hear music, while others associate letters, numbers, or people’s names with certain colors. Combinations of senses of all kinds can occur, which is why it is known that there are many different types of synesthesia, and it is common for a person with synesthesia to also have a second or third modality of this phenomenon. particular.

    It seems that this phenomenon occurs more frequently in women, between 3 and 8 times more than in men, and the reason is not known. You are also more likely to have synesthesia if you are left-handed. There is a hereditary component behind the onset of the phenomenon, because in families where one member suffers from synesthesia, there is a high probability that another member also has this phenomenon, and it appears to be associated with the X chromosome. is also common in people with autism spectrum disorders.

    Synesthesia usually has two of the five classic senses, although it is sometimes quite rare for three to be involved. Regardless of the number of senses involved, this phenomenon appears to be very rare, with statistics suggesting that it occurs between 1 and 4% of the population, although there are studies which suggest that 15% of the general population would experience a kind of synesthesia.

    Although it can be relatively common, many people don’t even know they are experiencing synesthesia! In fact, it is not uncommon for people with synaesthesia to discover it by pure chance, finding that smelling colors or seeing letters of a different color is not normal.

      The main types of synesthesia

      While all of the senses can be combined in any way possible, the most common perceptual interference in synesthesia involves the senses of taste and hearing, with color / tone matching being one of the most common. Below are some examples of relatively common types of synesthesia.

      1. Grapheme-color synesthesia

      Grapheme-color synesthesia this is the most common type, estimated to occur in 49% of people with synaesthesia. It involves seeing symbols of a certain color, such as letters and numbers or words together.

      French poet Arthur Rimbaud’s poem Vocals is considered an example of this type of synesthesia in the art world.

      A curiosity of this type of synesthesia is that there are certain associations that are more common than others, regardless of people. For example, the association between the letter A and the color red is generally quite common in people with synaesthetic.

        2. Chromesthesia

        Chromesthesia consists of sensory association between colors and sounds, also including the ability to perceive sounds or melodies when observing colors and the reverse process. Some studies show that 30% of people with synaesthesia have chromesthesia.

        Some well-known artists, such as the Russian painter Vasili Kandinsky and the poet Charles Baudelaire presented this type of synesthesia, and showed their particular sensory interferences in artistic creation.

        3. Lexical-taste synesthesia

        People with lexico-gustatory synesthesia they perceive flavors when they hear a word, a type of sensory interference that is thought to affect less than 0.2% of the world’s population.

        A well-known example of this type of synesthesia is that of SOMEONE by James Wannerton, a man who claims to taste a waffle every time he hears the word “basketball”.

          4. Synesthesia of personification

          The personification-type synesthesia is really curious and rare, consisting of perceive the “personality” of symbols such as letters or numbers. For example, it consists in seeing that the W is a crude letter or that the 7 is a ragged and mischievous number.

          5. Shaped digits

          Some people with synaesthetic they see ways of thinking in numbers, a type of synesthesia that was first described by statistical and psychometric pioneer Francis Galton in the late 19th century.

          6. Space-time synesthesia

          People who have this kind of synesthesia they establish a very strong link between temporal and spatial parameters, perceive time as if it were a physical entity. They can organize time with shapes such as squares, different sizes depending on the size or size of the period or even assign colors to it.

          7. Touch-mirror synesthesia

          Tactile mirror synesthesia consists of perceiving tactile sensations when seeing other people feel them, like seeing someone touch a glass and feeling that it is their fingers that feel the cold, smooth touch of that surface.

          It is inevitable to relate to the brain’s mirror neurons, cells that activate when we see someone doing something and it is as if they represent in our mind the behavior that we see in others.

          Some have associated tactile mirror synesthesia with above-average levels of empathy.

          8. Tactile-emotion synesthesia

          There are people who they feel emotions when they touch surfaces with certain textures, this type of synesthesia being extremely strange.

          9. Auditory-tactile synesthesia

          Auditory-tactile synesthesia implies that the person presenting it perceives physical sensations when hearing certain sounds. This type of synesthesia includes everything from relatively simple sensory interference, like hearing a squeaking sound when touching a metal surface, to more complex situations like hearing the word “Bologna” when touching a stone.

            10. Spatial sequences

            Spatial sequences are a type of synesthesia that consists of see numbers as if they were points in space.

            A common example of this is seeing that smaller numbers are near and larger numbers are far away.

            This type of synesthesia has been linked to the presentation of better memory than the population average.

            11. Linguistic ordinal personification

            Linguistic ordinal personification is a particular phenomenon in which ordered sequences and personalities or genres are associated. An example would be to connect the number 5 to an obese person or between the letter I and an aerobics instructor.

            How is synesthesia detected?

            There are no unique diagnostic criteria for detecting synesthesia. Because this is an extremely strange neurological disease and can manifest itself in so many different ways, detecting it can be a real challenge. Fortunately, American neurologist Richard Cytowic has proposed a number of criteria to facilitate the detection of cases of synesthesia.

            First, synesthesia occurs involuntarily and is caused by a sensory stimulus.

            In addition, synaesthetic experiences are projected, that is, they are not seen with the “mental eye” (when we imagine things), but are seen as if they are really outside of our mind. body, like a real sensory stimulus.

            It is a lasting and generic phenomenon, that is to say the association between two or more senses and stimuli is maintained over time. For example, if a person sees the letter E as yellow, they will continue to see it in that color for the long term, although it must be said that there are cases of people who can change the way they perceive certain synaesthetic sensations. . As for the credits, it refers to the fact that synaesthetic people tend to perceive simple sensations, for example, if they hear sounds, they will rarely see a complex landscape, but rather simple shapes and colors.

            Thanks to the fact that two or more senses are involved in the perception of the world, people with synesthesia usually have excellent memory. It is because they have more clues to remember what they have been through. For example, if we are people who associate colors with words, maybe a term as long as “sternoclidomostoid” is seen in orange and we associate it more easily with the anatomy lesson we had to memorize. for the biology course. .

            Bibliographical references

            • Gómez-Robledo, M. (2014) When the red rings to do. Journal the Country. Retrieved from
            • Cytowic, RE and Eagleman, DM (2009). Wednesday, it’s indigo blue: discovering the brain of synesthesia (with an epilogue by Dmitri Nabokov). Cambridge.
            • Amin, M., Olu-Lafe, O., Claessen, LE, Sobczak-Edmans, M., Ward, J., Williams, AL and Sagiv, N. (2011) Understanding grapheme personification: a social
            • synesthesia? Journal of Neuropsychology, 5, 255-282.
            • Asano, M. and Yokosawa, K. (2013) Grapheme learning and grapheme color synesthesia: towards a complete grapheme color association model. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 7, 757.
            • Banissy, MJ and Ward, J. (2007) Mirror tactile synesthesia is linked to empathy. Nature Neuroscience, 10, 815-816.
            • Bargary, G. and Mitchell, KJ (2008) Synesthesia and cortical connectivity. Trends in Neuroscience, 31, 335-342.
            • Brang, D. & Ramachandran, VS (2011) Synesthesia Gene Survival: Why Do People Hear Colors and Taste Words? Biology PLoS, 9, 11.

            Leave a Comment