On numbers and synesthesia

Synesthesia is a phenomenon that has always fascinated me since I studied it in university. As academics could define it, synesthesia it’s an altered perception some people face instead of the proper sensations they should be feeling.

It can run from feeling tingling rather than slight pain in certain parts of your body to see words in colors or hear sounds as you read a text. The truth is that although big players scientists in psychology and medicine have been involved investigating this particular super powers it remains yet as a one of the unconquered jungles of the mind’s science.

Some time ago, I was wondering if that plasticity that let our intellect play in fascinating scenarios could be brought into play as a simulator of synesthetes’s abilities. Two basic approaches are held into this phenomenon. First one deals with the possibility of an excess of links between brain parts that should not be related. The second one, a little bit more disturbing, deals with the idea that synesthetes suffer that certain signal feedbacks that should be inhibited are not.

This second premise let me dream about the chance that all of us who doesn’t have the right momentum to experience that phenomena could make an effort trying to unblock that pathways.

Human ability to play, think and transmute ideas is huge (even in our memories as we all know). That’s why this exercise I proposed some time ago on my blog was merely a game. It should be treated as an non scientific try out to evaluate if there is some ability in us to easily experience sinesthesia on that familiar symbols we all call numbers.

Around fifty people answered an online test in which every number from zero to nine was asked to be defined as a color from a closed list. “None of them” was also proposed as a valid answer, despite this, it wasn’t the most marked response.

The results of this informal experiment are presented here (PDF – 320KB). Hope you enjoy it.

[Spanish] PD: Creé el test hace algo más de un año y escribí este artículo en Julio de 2010. Lo publico diez meses más tarde, por lo que es de esperar que para seguir la progresión con cualquier paso adicional debo esperar al menos treinta meses más. Mil gracias a Dámaris por participar con la visualización de los datos.