Synesthesia: seeing sounds, hearing colours

Synesthesia: seeing sounds, hearing colours

In this episode of ABC's "All in the mind" podcast, Cognitive Science's Associate Professor Anina Rich explains the details of synesthesia as the interviewer explores the experiences of Eliza Watt, an 11-year-old girl who was surprised to find out that not everyone sees colourful auras around people, and who feels that numbers have colours and personalities.

Associate Professor Anina Rich is the director of the Perception and Action Research Centre at Macquarie University, where she heads the synesthesia research group. In this podcast, she breaks down what synesthesia is:

The word synaesthesia actually comes from the Greek syn, meaning together and aesthesis meaning of the senses. And so people have often described it as a mixing of the senses. In fact it's an umbrella term that can encompass a lot of different types of experiences that all fit within a sense of having an extraordinary response to a very ordinary stimulus. So, for example, people who have auditory visual synaesthesia have sounds of different types; it could be voices, it could be musical notes, it could be musical genres, evoking very specific and consistent experiences in the visual domain. So it might be moving pictures, it might be particular objects that have a colour and a form and a location that they see every time they hear that particular sound.

Perhaps the most common form is where people have vivid experiences of colour in response to letters, numbers and words—whether they see them, hear them, or even think about them.

Click here to listen to the podcast.

IMAGE: Associate Professor Anina Rich (ABC RADIO)

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