Wednesday, January 21, 2015


I don't mean to be a meanyhead/party pooper/jerk, but I'd like to voice healthy skepticism about what is now a solid chunk of our class possessing Synesthesia. While synesthesia used to be thought of as incredibly rare. It is now estimated that 1% of the population has some form of synesthesia. While this is a significant percentage, it is extraordinarily unlikely that three of the people in our class have this fairly rare mental phenomenon. There is a huge difference between an association and actual synesthesia. When you have synesthesia, actual images appear in your head because of sounds, and other sense physically and chemically trigger other senses. This is not the same thing as simply associating things with others. I am by no means telling anyone else they don't have this rare phenomenon; however, statistically it is unlikely that 33% of our class has it, when our grade is small enough that it is not necessarily super likely to have someone with it. So I'd like to ask the question to the synesthesia peoples whether when they do math and stuff with synesthesia if it is a blur of colors - or genders - coming together, or simply an association.


Sri Korrapati said...

I don't know, I looked up what associating numbers and genders was and it said synesthesia. My brain associates two separate concepts. But I have a video about a girl who sees numbers as colors if you wanted to know about how she has it.

Also, I don't know how accurate your percentage is. It might be a little more common than you think. The girl in the video didn't realize she had synesthesia until she was a freshman in college. Most people don't realize that linguistic personification is a part of synesthesia, and in fact I didn't realize it either until I saw the video and did research last year. The girl in the video said 2 was green and I was like thats impossible 2 is a girl and green is a boy. I remember it was my math fact of the day last year.

also lists personification as a type of Synesthesia

alex Monier said...

There's a difference between mere associations and synesthesia. What synesthesia is for numbers and colors (which is the most common form) is when one sees 1+2=3, they don't see numbers added in their head, they see colors combining into a color they associate three with. For example, if they associated 1 with purple, 2 with red, and 3 with green, they would picture splurges of colors coming together into a new one rather than simply knowing 1+2=3. After researching a little more, I found that the average number depended on the site, but most sites had it at least less than 4%. One site portrayed that it was actually 88 more times common than what was previously thought of as the correct percentage, however, this percentage from one study (which also had a looser definition of synesthesia) pegged the percentage at 4.4%. There is also a 3:1 female to male ratio involved in the proportion of the population that actually possesses this mental phenomenon. While I am not dismissing whether you have it or not, the statistician in me remains rather skeptical that such a large proportion of our class (and grade assuming that no one else claims to have synesthesia) have synesthesia

Sri Korrapati said...

They're are many types of synesthesia, and I don't know if anyone else in class actually has it though. One type of synesthesia is linguistic personification, so I just assume since I've always personified letters and numbers and colors that I have it.

Ross said...

As someone who has never had synesthesia, and probably never will have it, I cannot say that either of you are correct about this subject. I can, however, be biased towards Alex's side of the argument because I believe that there needs to be some strong fact behind something, or at least a large following of it, for it to be real. I think that it is more likely that people have subconsciously trained themselves to associate certain things together. Another thing is that, by your definition of synesthesia, a large number of people might have it just because of the traditional blue and pink colors that people put up when announcing a baby, representing male and female respectively. I am in no way saying that it is a fact that blue is strictly a male color or that pink is strictly a female color, I just used it as an example. I am also not denying the existence of this neurological phenomenon mostly because I cannot disprove it. I will, however, only acknowledge it as a poetic device to make a reader or observer feel something (i.e. how poets, authors, and painters use it).

Joe D said...

As someone who legitimately has grapheme to color synesthesia for the ordinal numbers 0-9, I can proffer a possible explanation. Perhaps there is a correlation between people who have an affinity for math (especially maths like graph and number theory) and people who have this sort of synesthesia. In our class, the people who have, to my knowledge, claimed to have my type of synesthesia are only Iris and myself. While Iris has not had the same experience I have with discrete mathematics, she does have a healthy background in art. I would hypothesize that working so intimately with two relatively distinct areas of the brain can cause "blending" of this sort.

When working in my class, my synesthesia helped me identify relations like isomorphisms in graphs faster than many of my classmates, which helps expedite the proof process.

I don't know what Sri did either consciously or subconsciously to achieve a gender to number synesthesia, but I see no harm or objection in believing it. Weirder things have happened (ehem.. Sri's obsession with writing "I love Will" all over everything).

Back to the point: we've got three people who are fairly good at mathematics who claim they have synesthesia in a room full of nine people who have all had experience with calculus before we graduate from high school. We're bright people, not exactly a non-random sample of the population, Alex (c'mon, think back to your statistics!).