Synesthesia: Intro

music: String quartet


Imagine listening to your favorite piece of music and also seeing, or even smelling or tasting it? I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by DuPont. For some people, the usual boundaries between the senses don’t exist. For them, it’s perfectly normal to see a sound or to hear a color.

“Synesthesia is a certain kind of enriched perception in which someone gets more sensations than do the rest of us, sensations that most people don’t experience.”

Dr. Peter Grossenbacher is a psychology professor at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado. He studies people who insist that the number five is yellow… or that violin music tastes like salt. They have a rare condition called synesthesia, in which the senses are somehow linked or intermingled. It’s common for a synesthete, a person with synesthesia, to see letters and numbers as having colors.

“For some individuals it works one way, and for others it works another way. It’s very idiosyncratic. The same letter will have different colors for different individual synesthetes.”

It’s tempting to think of synesthetes as simply having overactive imaginations. But according to Dr. Grossenbacher, scientific testing has shown that synesthesia is real.

“We have developed laboratory methods in which synesthetes show us on the computer screen exactly what color, for example, they are experiencing when they hear certain sounds. And that allows us to test for reliability across testing sessions, to see how consistent a person is and how specifically they indicate exactly which color they get.”

Peter Grossenbacher says that the test results for people with synesthesia are strikingly consistent over long periods of time. Pulse of the Planet is presented by DuPont, bringing you the miracles of science, with additional support provided by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner. For more information about synesthesia, contact Dr. Peter Grossenbacher via e-mail at peterg@naropa.edu or call him at (303) 245-4663.


Synesthesia: Intro

For some people, it's perfectly normal to see a sound or hear a color. They have a rare condition in which the senses are interlinked.
Air Date:11/07/2000
Scientist:
Transcript:

music: String quartet


Imagine listening to your favorite piece of music and also seeing, or even smelling or tasting it? I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by DuPont. For some people, the usual boundaries between the senses don't exist. For them, it's perfectly normal to see a sound or to hear a color.

"Synesthesia is a certain kind of enriched perception in which someone gets more sensations than do the rest of us, sensations that most people don't experience."

Dr. Peter Grossenbacher is a psychology professor at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado. He studies people who insist that the number five is yellow... or that violin music tastes like salt. They have a rare condition called synesthesia, in which the senses are somehow linked or intermingled. It's common for a synesthete, a person with synesthesia, to see letters and numbers as having colors.

"For some individuals it works one way, and for others it works another way. It's very idiosyncratic. The same letter will have different colors for different individual synesthetes."

It's tempting to think of synesthetes as simply having overactive imaginations. But according to Dr. Grossenbacher, scientific testing has shown that synesthesia is real.

"We have developed laboratory methods in which synesthetes show us on the computer screen exactly what color, for example, they are experiencing when they hear certain sounds. And that allows us to test for reliability across testing sessions, to see how consistent a person is and how specifically they indicate exactly which color they get."

Peter Grossenbacher says that the test results for people with synesthesia are strikingly consistent over long periods of time. Pulse of the Planet is presented by DuPont, bringing you the miracles of science, with additional support provided by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner. For more information about synesthesia, contact Dr. Peter Grossenbacher via e-mail at peterg@naropa.edu or call him at (303) 245-4663.