How do you know if you have synesthesia?

by Sigourney Young

When people ask me what I do, I tell them I am an artist. But most importantly I tell them how I interpret my experiences of the world into a medium other people can understand. This is one of the greatest things about painting, and something I love sharing with those who have one of my pieces. It’s so important to me because synesthesia is such a rare experience (2-4 percent of the population) and I want to be able to share that with people that encounter and collect my artwork.

Synesthesia is the crossing of senses. What this means is that Synesthetes have a sensory perception -sound, taste, smell, touch, sight – that is interpreted by the brain through an experience not usually associated with that specific sense. I see music as colour, in that when I hear a sound, a colour automatically and involuntarily appears in my mind, taking on a form that is always consistent.

If a car exhaust rattles when stopping at the lights, I will always see it as a basalt grey. A bass tone common in pop songs appears dark blue and purple. Drums in metal are always black. This consistency helps me create works that both compliment my experience of the song, but also enables me to paint a balanced composition that stands on its own and can be interpreted by viewers. It is this consistency of experience that is an essential part of synesthesia.

There are many different types of Synesthesia, not just the sound-to-color synesthesia (chromethesia) that I experience. Some people can read or hear a word and they automatically and consistently taste a particular flavor. They may read the word Red and taste yogurt or hear someone say “together” and taste paprika. This intertwining of senses is called lexical-gustatory synesthesia. Whilst those with grapheme-color synesthesia automatically associate numbers and letters with colors. An A for someone may always appears red, the number 6 always blue.

It is only just recently that scientists are taking a closer look at the reasons for these particular sensory associations. And hopefully, fingers crossed, we can come closer to finding out why some people experience the world in this unique way.

So how do you know if you have synesthesia?

Answering yes to all of these questions is a good start!

1. Do you experience a crossing of the senses?

You might experience a crossing of the senses if one sense responds through stimulation of another. For example, if hearing stimulates a taste. Check out a full list of the types of synesthesia here.

2. Does this reaction happen involuntarily and automatically?

Synesthesia isn’t something you can think or practice into being! Your experience will happen straight away without any effort or thought.

3. Is your experience consistent?

One of the key measures of synesthesia is consistency, meaning do you have the same response to the same stimulation every time? If your experience stays the same every time you experience that stimulation you probably have synesthesia!

Do you think you have synesthesia or know someone who does? Do you wish you had it? Let me know in the comments!

Sigourney xo

April 8, 2019


I’m Sigourney

I’m a synesthesia artist that will be forever found with paint on my nose, dancing around the studio in my yoga pants. I love travel, gluten-free brownies and working from the home studio I share with my husband. My goal? To bring you into the world of synesthesia and to create a space online that celebrates the colour and meaning of music.

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