Stupid brain tricks.

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Someone else had made a video of their associations of personalities, genders, and colors with numbers, and I replied with a video response of colored letters and numbers:

Be aware that synaesthesia tends to be way more fascinating to synaesthetes than non-synaesthetes, so the video might for all I know be very boring to most people. Synaesthesia usually has an emotional component as part of the neurological response at the time, so every time I see a letter as having a color, or a sound as having a texture, or whatever, there’s a “Wow this is really cool” response going on in my head that’s just as involuntary as the sensory association itself (and synaesthesia is involuntary, rather than consciously imaginary). So I would have trouble getting sick of watching colored letters and numbers (provided they’re the right colors — the wrong colors drive me nuts), but I don’t expect the rest of the world to find it so fascinating. Although I expect Bev will probably like it because it shows the number 8 twice.

I wish I had the animation skills to make an animation of the assorted colored lines and blobs and shapes that go with the music, too, but I’ll have to content myself with letters and numbers.

About Mel Baggs

Hufflepuff. Came from the redwoods. Crochet or otherwise create constantly and compulsively. Write poetry and paint when I can. Physically and cognitively disabled. Anything you hear in the media or gossip is likely to be oversimplified at best and wildly inaccurate at worst, the only way to get to know me is to actually know me. I'm not really part of any online faction or another, even ones that claim me as a member. The thing in the world most important to me is having love and compassion for other people, although I don't always measure up to my own standards there by a longshot. And individual specific actions and situations and contexts matter a lot more to me than broadly-spoken abstract words and ideas about a topic. My father died a couple years ago and that has changed my life a lot in ways that are still evolving, but I wear a lot of his clothes and hats every day since he died and have shown no sign of stopping soon.

39 responses »

  1. Yes, that was the joke, I was parodying that. Instead of brought to you by such-and-such letters and numbers, it was brought to you by the letters A and K and the color blue. (A and K are both blue. So are a lot of other things but I didn’t have room for them all.)

  2. I don’t see colours with mumbers and letters as such. However, each number or letter has a sort of weightiness attached to it in my mind (and it’s not based o how far down the alphabet it goes or how high the number is). 13 is medium, 14 is light, 16 is quite heavy. 7 is medium, 4 is heavy. G is heavy, L is heavy, M is heavy, Q is light, Y is light. Sure there’s a reason in there somewhere. The heavier the number or letter the darker it appears in my mind. All letters are numbers (and years as well) are placed along paths/rows in my head which go off in different directions at certain points.

  3. I don’t think I’m a synaesthete (sp?) but I liked this video. First of all I didn’t know that synas…whatzit could be associated with letters and numbers. Cool. Then I also liked the music and I thought that the numerals and letters you chose seemed like a very jazzy font, somehow. Finally, I love color and it was enjoyable to take a stress-break and just watch some pretty colors, in pretty shapes, with pretty music. :)

  4. I don’t experience synesthesia, but ever since I was a child, certain things have had odd associations. For instance, Sunday is red, Monday is pink, Tuesday is light blue, Wednesday is black, Thursday is light green, Friday is dark green, and Saturday is yellow. Six is yellow, seven is green, eight is blue, nine is brown, and ten is black and white (and wears glasses!).
    Also, starting at zero, the numbers go in a straight line up a hill, turn right at twelve, then turn left at thirteen and go back downhill. They turn left at twenty, and go uphill until fifty, then back down. At 100, they turn right and go uphill again. Then it gets vague.

  5. Actually, colors for days of the week are a kind of conceptual synaesthesia. (Similar to colored graphemes.) And, so are colored numbers.

    For what it’s worth, for me, Sunday is yellow and white, Monday is red and white, Tuesday is blue and white, Wednesday is blue and white but wider, Thursday is red-orange and white, Friday is yellow and white, and Saturday is red and white. These are particular stripe patterns.

    My parents used to say phrases to me at bedtime, which I liked because of the color associations. “Good night” is black and white striped. “I like you” is yellow and white striped. And “Have a good rest” is pink surrounded by purple.

  6. The other day at the office I was color-coding different pages of a ledger according to insurance company. I did green for Medicare, Blue for Blue Cross (of course), and yellow for Healthease. I realized that Healthease is so obviously yellow I can’t imagine it being any other color. I even asked my boss, without him looking, what color Healthease should be– and he agreed. Some insurance is just yellow.

  7. I do not know if it is exactly the same as synaesthesia but I have a “feeling” about every color and a “feeling” about every letter which matches a color. I have uploaded my letters to photobucket. Maybe I do the numbers later, but it’s late.

    The T should have been slightly more lighter as it is, as I view the D and T as ‘cold’ but I perceive the T more positive. M and N are similar, but the M is more positive. The (red) S is flamboyant and noisy, etc… (some will probably a bit bright for you)

  8. I liked the video. The music worked well.

    I don’t associate letters or numbers with colors, but for some reason, some music will evoke other senses, such as color or smell. (But not every bit of music will do that.)

  9. Cool video. :) It was very much reminiscent of some of the set-to-music letter/number sequences on children’s TV shows. I used to have this little handheld projector thing with a crank on the side you could put little cartridges in — turning the crank while looking through the eyepiece made the film in the cartridge “animate”. My absolute favorite cartridge was a Sesame Street numbers cartridge, especially the part where they zoomed way in on a number 9 (I think) and had it grow eyes and hair and stuff. Really weird but fascinating at the same time.

    Some of your letter-colors matched mine (my “Y” is also yellowish) but I went “Erk!” when I saw your A, B, and C, because mine are red, blue, and yellow, respectively. :P

  10. Those drippy faux descenders on the 2,4,E,Z,L and 5 really irritate me. Where did that font come from? Also, the 9,D,T and Z were too dull. All of the letters and numbers should be the same tone…eee—

    The music was great, though.

  11. Anne: Apparently it’s really common for some reason for A to be red. (Most letters there’s no particular trends in, but A is usually red, and a couple other letters are usually a certain way.)

    Janis: It’s Truesdell, which is one of my favorite fonts.

  12. I think I’ve experienced touch to “hearing” or “seeing” synaesthesia when under the influence of marijuana. So after I first took it, the lyrics to certain songs of the 60’s suddenly made sense to me, lol. Thanks for posting the video; cool music too!

  13. Yes, some drugs can cause temporary synaesthesia. (Nearly always perceptual rather than conceptual, interestingly enough.)

    Oddly enough, the main drug that influenced my synaesthesia was an anti-depressant of all things. I can’t remember which one. I just remember that every time I looked at a certain pattern, I heard an electronic-sounding noise. (Normally looking at things doesn’t cause noises for me.)

  14. Eight is green? That’s good, I like green. Cool video. I have always envied people with perceptual synaesthesia. I have some conceptual synaesthesia: music almost always has lines or shapes that go with it, and many words have a particular smell or flavor. “Stapler” for example tastes like licorice to me.

  15. It’s funny about the “Wow, this is really cool!” thing. I was already in my twenties when I realised that what I experienced wasn’t exactly the same as everyone else. Increasingly I found that I would sometimes describe art – music and spoken language in particular – in ways that other people simply didn’t understand. Then when I studied psychology, neuropsychology in particular, I finally came across the concept and thought, “Okay, so that’s atypical, is it?”

    Not that I don’t think it’s really cool – I can’t imagine what music would be like if it was just sounds in your ears. What’s the point of that? ;-)

    Anyway, I would be interested in how you came to realise that this was something different? I wonder whether, without the anticipation that your perceptive experiences would be typical, you were aware of this much sooner than I was?

  16. Wow . . . just had a discussion with my husband about genders/colors associated with numbers approximately 31 hours ago. And yeah, eight was green — until I rolled the statement “eight is green” around in my brain just now, and then eight suddenly became steely purple. Hmmm. And I’ve been meaning to mention that a couple of weeks ago I had some fried calamari that tasted . . . umm, “haunted”. Like I associated the taste of the calamari with the word “haunted”, but also with the implications of “haunted”. It was the first time that I’ve had such a concrete incidence of a taste evoking a specific word, rather than the other way around, meaning the word usually evokes the taste.

  17. Kirayoshi, that does sound like a type of synaesthesia. I didn’t think I fit the bill, either, but mine is similar to yours. Numbers, letters, and words all have their own character and emotions attached. A lot of the time they have texture, too. It was interesting finding out that the “word as distinct individual” thing, which other people always treated as odd, is probably synaesthesia in action. Like with other people’s colors, the characters and emotions interact, too.

  18. It’s absolutely nothing about knowing it was different. There was just a sense of fascination with it, the same way I find other interesting things fascinating. That emotional connection to it is there for most people with traditionally-defined synaesthesia, although I suspect not all — it has something to do with the way the wiring usually happens, not to do with whether you know it’s unusual or not.

    The criteria Cytowic originally came up with for synaesthesia were:

    1. Synesthesia is involuntary and automatic.
    2. Synesthetic images are spatially extended, meaning they often have a definite ‘location’.
    3. Synesthetic percepts are consistent and generic (i.e. simple rather than imagistic).
    4. Synesthesia is highly memorable.
    5. Synesthesia is laden with affect.

    Now, #4 and #5 I actually suspect are not necessarily the case for all people and all kinds of synaesthesia. And the “consistent” part of #3 is not true for the sort of synaesthesia that a lot of autistic people experience under overload (including some autistic people who are not otherwise synaesthetes). But they’re common enough to have ended up in the original set of official criteria for it nonetheless. And it’s the #5 part that I was referring to, that’s definitely true of most of mine.

  19. A appears heavy in my mind (makes sense I suppose, the gravity of the initial letter) and as such would have darker tones than red, either dark blue or black or sometimes dark green. D is more medium, so that might be red.
    “2. Synesthetic images are spatially extended, meaning they often have a definite ‘location’.”
    That definitely applies with how I see letters, numbers and days of the week and years/timelines.

  20. I generally have to assign definitive colors, spatial dimensions, textures and tastes to words. Sometimes they seem to be based on similarities to other words, sometimes they’re based on having been eating something when I first heard the word and formed a strong association with it, sometimes they just seem to be really random and I don’t know what they’re based on, other than “if this were a food, it would taste like this.”

    ….tastes and smells kind of skirt the line between what’s referred to as perceptual and conceptual, I think. There are times when I swear I’m tasting a thing and other times when I think I’m just imagining it so vividly it seems like tasting it and other times when I think I imagined it so vividly that I actually did taste it.

    Weirdly (or not), it would be difficult for me to do the colored letter/number thing with traditional fonts. For instance, 5 would include pink but also have to be mottled with grey and black, not as a kind of spackle thing but as the pink grading into pink-grey and pink-black in some areas. And some letters/numbers are just literally colorless to me– they’re like hollow glass shapes.

  21. L is transparent and can also take on the color of the letters next to it.

    Also when letters form words, sometimes some colors dominate more than others.

    Like my friend Laura’s name is blue. Because the a’s are blue, the u doesn’t register, the r is dark purple, and the L picks up the general blueness.

  22. I suppose music was always the biggest thing and music is supposed to be an emotional experience anyway. To be fascinated and deeply moved by music didn’t seem unusual.

    Apparently Tchaikovsky experienced music as colour and shape and refused to believe that others did not.

    Anyway, it was an interesting video and an interesting discussion Amanda, thank you. :-)

  23. “I wish I had the animation skills to make an animation of the assorted colored lines and blobs and shapes that go with the music, too, but I’ll have to content myself with letters and numbers.”

    This is a really fun, inexpensive, and user friendly animation program, if you are interested:

    Anime Studio

  24. I have synesthesia. Was sitting there thinking, “How could you possibly think six is orangey???” :p Mine mostly has to do with feeling sounds on my skin though.

  25. Hello,

    Very fascinating, Amanda! Good job with the video :-). I have general sound = color perceptual synesthesia, and multiple synesthesia that is both conceptual and perceptual. The latter is my main thought process. I do not see any colored letters or numbers whatsoever, so this was very new and interesting to me! Thanks for posting it.

    This is my first time posting here, yet I have been reading your blog for some time and find it very well-written, very thoughtful, and very great to read!

    Will

  26. Just today I was having trouble with a pice of music so decided to color the notes in very lightly. I colored many more notes than I usually do, just to see if it would help (it didn’t, I just don’t know the piece.) As I was playing, I wondered what I would say if someone came in and asked me “What IS that?” and the answer that immediately came to my mind was “Numbers!” Now, that would have really made the imaginary person wonder! Notes have colors, and so do numbers and letters, which is why I absentmindedly thought “numbers” instead of “notes” or even “note letters”.

    One not-so-good thing about music notes being colors is that the LETTER B is blue and the letter C is orange. So if I have a piece of music that has a C-flat, I am to play the actual NOTE (or key) B, since C-flat is the same as B. I always have trouble with playing a C-flat and I finally realized this year that it’s because I am waffling back and forth between orange and blue, and it’s too late to to hit the right note once I have decided, if I ever do. What I need to do is color the C-flat blue, even though C is orange, because that way I will autimatically play a B, since B is blue. It happens faster than I can work it out consciously, which correlates with the Cytowic criteria # 1 (involuntary and automatic).

  27. I was recommended here and since people say I experience synaesthesia I was very interested in your video. However, I had to shut it off because a) O and 1/I are ‘wrong’ in the sense that O made me almost violently nausious and b) because other numbers while not as ‘wrong’ were still consistantly ‘incorrect’ – obviously that is not so, how can a number colour be ‘incorrect’ – brain says that, stomach says wrong, wrong, wrong. So I include this in case you are tabulating responses.

  28. I don’t think this is “stupid” at all. On the contrary, it’s very fascinating! Your 2 made me think of dripping goo or sweat…..probably because of the color and the font both. Like the 2 had been out in the sun for way too long…..or someone had JUST painted it…..

    Very cool. If I remember anything in particular that Athena, Ivan, or myself experienced with numbers as kids, I’ll post it. This video made me think about that……maybe numbers smiled at Athena…..can’t remember though.

    TI

  29. Hi,
    Would this expalin why some people can remember looong strings of numbers or words? I imagine that the colors would help keep the numbers/words in order. That would really help someone to visualize complex patterns… The above reference to “Laura” being blue makes perfect sense.
    I don’t think like this but wish I did.
    I wonder if children are naturals at this and it is neglected through the “normal” school system and thus atrophies..? Just thinking aloud. ( well, typing..) Have a great day everyone!

  30. Some people say it helps them remember things like that, I’m not sure it helps me. Daniel Tammet and that guy Luria wrote about are both synaesthetes in addition to being good at memory feats, but I’m not sure whether synaesthesia caused the good memory or not.

    In my case, I might remember the color of a word without remembering which word it is. For instance, I often confuse the names “Tom” and “Dan” because they’re both brown and also similar in shape in some ways.

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