Encyclopedia of Color Science and Technology

Living Edition
| Editors: Renzo Shamey

Color Synesthesia

  • Berit Brogaard
  • Dimitria Electra GatziaEmail author
  • Jennifer Matey
Living reference work entry

Latest version View entry history

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-27851-8_112-8



Color synesthesia is a condition in which sensory or cognitive inducers elicit involuntary, atypical, concurrent color experiences.

Marks of Color Synesthesia

Synesthesia is a condition that involves unusual pairings across modalities. In color synesthesia, a sensory or cognitive stimulus such as a grapheme or a sound automatically and involuntarily induces specific color experiences. Various types of color synesthesia have been identified, including calendar-color synesthesia, sound-color synesthesia, taste-color synesthesia, and even fear-color synesthesia. However, the most prevalent form of the condition is grapheme-color synesthesia, where numbers or letters induce highly specific color experiences [1].

One of the marks of grapheme-color synesthesia is that it exhibits test-retest reliability, meaning that the synesthetic colors subjects identify relative to specific stimuli in the initial testing phase are nearly identical to those...
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. 1.
    Cytowic, R.E., Eagleman, D.M.: Wednesday Is Indigo Blue. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA (2009)Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Dixon, M.J., Smilek, D.: The importance of individual differences in grapheme-color synesthesia. Neuron. 45, 821–823 (2005)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Dixon, M.J., Smilek, D., Merikle, P.M.: Not all synaesthetes are created equal: projector versus associator synaesthetes. Cogn. Affect. Behav. Neurosci. 4, 335–343 (2004)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Witthoft, N., Winawer, J.: Learning, memory, and synesthesia. Psychol. Sci. 24(3), 258–265 (2013)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Baron-Cohen, S., Harroson, J., Goldstein, L.H., Wyke, M.: Coloured speech perception: is synaesthesia what happens when modularity breaks down? Perception. 22, 419–426 (1993)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Simner, J., Ward, J., Lanz, M., Jansari, A., Noonan, K., Glover, L., et al.: Non-random associations of graphemes to colours in synaesthetic and non-synaesthetic populations. Cogn. Neuropsychol. 22(8), 1069 (2005)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Ramachandran, V.S., Hubbard, E.M.: The emergence of the human mind: some clues from synesthesia. In: Robertson, L.C., Sagiv, N. (eds.) Synesthesia: Perspectives from Cognitive Neuroscience, pp. 147–190. Oxford University Press, Oxford (2005)Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Smilek, D., Dixon, M.J., Merikle, P.M.: Synaesthetic photisms guide attention. Brain Cogn. 53, 364–367 (2003)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Laeng, B., Svartdal, F., Oelmann, H.: Does color synesthesia pose a paradox for early-selection theories of attention? Psychol. Sci. 15, 277–281 (2004)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Hubbard, E.M., Manohar, S., Ramachandran, V.S.: Contrast affects the strength of synesthetic colors. Cortex. 42, 184–194 (2005)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Blake, R., Palmeri, T.J., Ma mis, R., Kim, C.-Y.: On the perceptual reality of synesthetic color. In: Robertson, L.C., Sagiv, N. (eds.) Synesthesia: Perspectives from Cognitive Neuroscience, pp. 47–73. Oxford University Press, Oxford (2005)Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Paulesu, E., Harrison, J., Baron-Cohen, S., Watson, J.D.G., Goldstein, L., Heather, J., Frackowiak, R.S.J., Frith, C.D.: The physiology of coloured hearing: A PET activation study of colour-word synaesthesia. Brain. 118, 661–676 (1995)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Segal, G.M.A.: Synaesthesia: implications for modularity of mind. In: Baron-Cohen, S., Harrison, J.E. (eds.) Synaesthesia: Classic and Contemporary Readings, pp. 211–223. Blackwell, Cambridge (1997)Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Hanggi, J., Wotruba, D., Jäncke, L.: Globally altered structural brain network topology in grapheme-color synesthesia. J. Neurosci. 31, 5816–5828 (2011).  https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0964-10.2011CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Zamm, A., Schlaug, G., Eagleman, D.M., Loui, P.: Pathways to seeing music: enhanced structural connectivity in colored-music synesthesia. NeuroImage. 74, 359–366 (2013).  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2013.02.024CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Ward, J.: Synesthesia. Annu. Rev. Psychol. 64, 4975 (2013)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Grossenbacher, P.G., Lovelace, C.T.: Mechanisms of synesthesia: cognitive and physiological constraints. Trends Cogn. Sci. 5, 36–41 (2001)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Armel, K.C., Ramachandran, V.S.: Acquired synesthesia in retinitis pigmentosa. Neurocase. 5, 293–296 (1999)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Brogaard, B.: Serotonergic hyperactivity as a potential factor in developmental, acquired and drug-induced synesthesia. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 7, 657 (2013).  https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2013.00657CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Shanon, B.: Ayahuasca visualizations: a structural typology. J. Conscious. Stud. 9, 3–30 (2002)Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Brogaard, B., Gatzia, D.E.: Psilocybin, LSD, mescaline and drug-induced synesthesia. In: Preedy, V.R. (ed.) The Neuropathology of Drug Addictions and Substance Misuse, vol. 2, pp. 890–905. Elsevier, New York (2016)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Myles, K.M., Dixon, M.J., Smilek, D., Merikle, P.M.: Seeing double: The role of meaning in alphanumeric-colour synaesthesia. Brain Cogn. 53, 342–345 (2003)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Brogaard, B.: Synesthetic binding and the reactivation model of memory. In: Deroy, O. (ed.) Sensory Blending: On Synaesthesia and Related Phenomena, pp. 126–150. Oxford University Press, Oxford (2017)Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Brogaard, B., Marlow, K., Rice, K.: The long-term potentiation model for grapheme-color binding in synesthesia. In: Bennett, D., Hill, C. (eds.) Sensory Integration and the Unity of Consciousness, pp. 37–72. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA (2014)Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Smilek, D., Dixon, M.J., Cudahy, C., Merikle, P.M.: Synesthetic color experiences influence memory. Psychol. Sci. 13(6), 548–552 (2002)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Brogaard, B., Vanni, S., Silvanto, J.: Seeing mathematics: perceptual experience and brain activity in acquired synesthesia. Neurocase. 19(6), 1–10 (2012).  https://doi.org/10.1080/13554794.2012.701646CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Mills, C.B., Innis, J., Westendorf, T., Owsianiecki, L., McDonald, A.: Effect of a synesthete’s photisms on name recall. Cortex. 42, 155–163 (2006)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Bor, D., Billington, J., Baron-Cohen, S.: Savant memory for digits in a case of synaesthesia and Asperger syndrome is related to hyperactivity in the lateral prefrontal cortex. Neurocase. 13, 311–319 (2007)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Matey, J.: Can blue mean four? In: Bennett, D., Hill, C. (eds.) Sensory Integration and the Unity of Consciousness, pp. 151–170. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA (2014)Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Rothen, N., Meier, B.: Higher prevalence of syneasthesia in art students. Perception. 39, 718–720 (2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Ward, J., Thompson-Lake, D., Ely, R., Kaminski, F.: Synesthesia, creativity, and art: what is the link? Br. J. Psychol. 99, 127–141 (2008)CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media LLC 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Berit Brogaard
    • 1
    • 2
  • Dimitria Electra Gatzia
    • 3
    Email author
  • Jennifer Matey
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of OsloOsloNorway
  2. 2.Brogaard Lab for Multisensory ResearchUniversity of MiamiMiamiUSA
  3. 3.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of AkronAkronUSA
  4. 4.Department of PhilosophySouthern Methodist UniversityDallasUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Rolf Kuehni
    • 1
  1. 1.Color research & applicationPennsvilleUSA