We forget sometimes that we’re all associative thinkers. For all of us, everything means something. We can use that fact to help us, or we can ignore it and blame the fact that mercury is retrograde on why our message didn’t get through as intended. Here is a little test of that strength of association. The power in all of us, of metaphorical thinking.
Does everyone see the numbers here?
What about the colors?
What about now – do you see colors?
If you do, you are among the 1 in 23 people who experience this involuntary commingling of the senses called Synesthesia. This one, number-color linking, is the most common (in fact my wife has it – these are the colors she sees) but it also can occur when people strongly associate sounds with smells, colors with personalities, sound with taste.
What happens is that parts of the brain – the ones that distinguish numbers and colors, or tones and colors – which are normally not connected in an adult brain, stay connected. This makes that capacity for metaphorical or associative thinking, involuntary. It is especially strong in creative pursuits – among poets, artists and novelists synesthesia is 8x more common.
Just like the regular alphabet, A is A, B is B, C is C. Different shapes for different sounds, this is two letters of the martian alphabet. One of them is KIKI, one of them is BOOBA. Which one is which?
You probably guessed correctly, BOOBA is on the left, KIKI is on the right. If none of you are Martians, how did you do that? It isn’t a trick, you are all doing what he calls a cross modal syneshetic abstraction. In other words, even unconsciously, you associate meaning to things.
BOOBA, because it has a soft rounded sound, is associated with the soft, rounded shape. KIKI, because it has a sharp Kee Kee sound, is associated with the sharp angular shape.
So if we all associate – especially visually – how do we turn it to our advantage?
- Can You Teach Yourself Synesthesia? (theatlantic.com)