The Color of Words

Wendy Carter, Reporter and Treasurer

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The ability to associate words with meanings, smells and words with colors, and mirrored movements and feeling from another person all sound like superpowers of a sort. But really these examples are just a few of the crazy symptoms of a condition called synesthesia. Synesthesia is an secondary reaction that can occur when your brain is stimulated by one of  your senses (ex. sound, touch, sight, ect.) and causes an association or action involving a completely different sense.

Synesthesia comes in many different forms. There are twenty known forms, including but not limited to: Grapheme-color synesthesia (letters or numbers are perceived as inherently colored), Chromesthesia (which heard sounds automatically and involuntarily evoke an experience of color), Number-form Synesthesia ( Numbers are mapped into distinct spatial locations and the mapping may be different across), Ordinal linguistic personification (is a form of synesthesia in which ordered sequences, such as ordinal numbers, days, months and letters are associated with personalities and/or genders), Misophonia (negative emotions, thoughts, and physical reactions are triggered by specific sounds), Mirror-touch synesthesia (causes individuals to experience the same sensation that another person feels). Because there are multiple sub-categories for senses it thought that there are more types of synesthesia that have yet to be discovered.

Abbey Karlik, a senior of the class of 2018, has multiple forms of synesthesia such as Grapheme-color, Sound to Color, and This form of synesthesia presents itself as numbers, letters, and words being colored.

I sat down with Abbey and asked her a few questions on how synesthesia affects her daily life.

Q:What type of synesthesia do you experience/ what is the classical definition name to this type?
A: I experience Grapheme-color, Sound to Color, and Personification (A form of mirror-touch) Synesthesia.
Q: When and how did you realize that this was irregularity?
A: I never really thought of it as an ‘ irregularity’ or unusual. It’s always been normal to me. When I first found out that other people didn’t have it [synesthesia] I thought they were weird. I think it was chemistry class sophomore year where I was explaining the colors and genders to my alphabet and everyone was like ‘What are you talking about?’
Q: How do people react when you tell them you have synesthesia?
A: There’s no big reaction. People are usually say something like ‘Really? How does that work?’ They’re more curious than anything.
Q: How do you explain your synesthesia to others?
A: I try to visually explain what I can in the simplest of terms. Like how A is red or how when I hear ‘Bright Lights’ by Matchbox Twenty, my mind congers up swirling blues. The name makes it seem complicated.
Q: Do you know other people in person and / or online that have synesthesia?
A: Not personally,no, but when I found out Lorde experiences it I freaked out because I love her and her music.
Q: Are there any benefits that you can enjoy because of your synesthesia ( ex.Improved memory, math spelling/ writing)?
A: It definitely influences my memory and how I study for tests. I think the personalities and colors for letters and numbers just make certain words stand out more than others and help create a better image to think of and conjure up when I’m stuck on a test. It’s better than trying to remember a random sentence or string of words. Does that make sense? In spelling, it helps because the specific combination of letters will look right and wrong together and that aesthetic and feeling that comes with the specific combination will remind me of the spelling.

Synesthesia is a fascinating perceptual phenomenon that affects each person who has it differently, we’ve now heard the interesting story of Abbey Karlik’s synesthesia, and I hope her story has piqued your interest as much as it has piqued mine.

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