9 types of synesthesia and their characteristics

Synesthesia tells us about the involuntary connections between the senses. However, it is not a pathological phenomenon.

Last update: 22 March, 2022

Although we are used to thinking that touch is only concerned with making us experience surface sensations or that the auditory sense only makes sounds reach us, there is a curious phenomenon called synesthesiawhich has different types.

Synesthesia links different stimuli and affects or multiplies its effects in different ways than we would expect. For example, perceiving flavors in sounds. Let’s see what this curious phenomenon of perception is all about.

What is synesthesia?

Synesthesia is a phenomenon of perception through which we perceive the same stimulus with two senses (or more). It is about the union of the senses, as its etymology refers.

The peculiarity is that said perception is carried out through channels or ways that do not correspond. That is, a sound through the visual pathway or touch through the auditory pathway. It’s possible? Yes. Let’s look at an example.

Synesthesia occurs when, in addition to hearing certain sounds, we also perceive colors at the same time. If a person says “When I hear this melody, what comes to mind is like a gradient of blue color”, then there is synestia. Another example would be to perceive a symbol with color, such as associating that the letter W is violet.

This conjunction in the senses causes a lot of interest and seeks to determine its origin. In general terms, the studies agree that the influence of genes is decisive.

It seems that genetics plays a predominant role in the genesis of synesthesia, so it could be a congenital alteration.


9 types of synesthesia and their characteristics

Some of the types of synesthesia that exist are the following:

  1. Grapheme-color: corresponds to the example already provided: It is to think of a letter or symbol associated with a color. For example, the E is blue. It is considered a classic of these types of synesthesia the poem by Arthur Rimbaud called Vowels.
  2. Chromesthesia: refers to the sensory association between colors and sounds. Whether a color evokes a sound or vice versa. For example, think of the color white as monotonous and smooth, while red would sound like an explosion. According to research, this is one of the most frequent synesthesias.
  3. Synesthesia of touch: It occurs when we see that someone is touching some surface and we feel as if we were the ones touching it. For example, seeing someone touch a rough surface and experiencing that feeling that we are scratching ourselves. In this case we speak of the intervention of mirror neurons.
  4. Personification: It consists of attributing characteristics or qualities to a symbol or number. For example, saying that the letter R is capricious or that the number 1 is agile and light.
  5. Lexicon and taste: It is a phenomenon of synesthesia that consists of attributing a certain taste to the letters, to the color or to the words. For example, thinking that the color pink tastes like bubble gum or a strawberry.
  6. Auditory-tactile: It is the fact of tactilely experiencing certain sensations from a sound. For example, if someone is scratching a surface and we feel like a chill in the teeth. Or listen to a sad song and feel cold.
  7. Space time: It is a very rare type of synesthesia, since it leads to perceiving time as if it were a physical unit.
  8. See words in the spoken language: it’s as if we were subtitling a conversation. Thus, if the person emphasizes the word “sorry”, we may see it written in capital letters.
  9. Shaped Numbers: It is one of the types of synesthesia that leads us to associate certain shapes with numbers. For example, think of the 2 as two triangles or the 5 as a square.


How do synesthesias affect daily life?

First of all, people who have synesthesia are not able to think about this phenomenon in such a way. It is something that goes unnoticed. It happens to them and that’s it.

On the other hand, it is estimated that it is not common and that not the entire population experiences it. Between 1% and 4% of people experience some type of synesthesia globally.

However, there is no uniform scientific position. There are those who maintain that everyone experiences it, although not everyone has the same type of synesthesia. However, it is worth clarifying that it is not a disorder or something to worry about.

Although the subject is not known in depth, it is considered to be the product of the complex brain machine, of which many discoveries remain to be discovered. Likewise, the explanatory hypothesis states that it is that the neurons are connected to each other and that, sometimes, there are interference between them.

In the neuronal connections would be the explanation for the phenomenon of synesthesia.

Synesthesia: a mixture of sensations

Although synesthesia is presented as a curious phenomenon, in which certain stimuli transcend the usual route of experimentation; This allows us to think of two conclusions. On the one hand, there is the richness and diversity of our perceptual experiences. That is to say, there is an enormous potential in the senses to imagine, create and experience.

On the other hand, reinforces the fact that there are different ways of living an event. So there is no universal truth about it and they could all be equally valid.

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