A systematic, large-scale study of synaesthesia: implications for the role of early experience in lexical-colour associations

Rich, AN, Bradshaw, JL and Mattingley, JB (2005) A systematic, large-scale study of synaesthesia: implications for the role of early experience in lexical-colour associations. Cognition, 98 1: 53-84. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2004.11.003


Author Rich, AN
Bradshaw, JL
Mattingley, JB
Title A systematic, large-scale study of synaesthesia: implications for the role of early experience in lexical-colour associations
Journal name Cognition   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0010-0277
Publication date 2005-01-01
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1016/j.cognition.2004.11.003
Volume 98
Issue 1
Start page 53
End page 84
Total pages 32
Place of publication Amsterdam
Publisher Elsevier Science Bv
Language eng
Abstract For individuals with synaesthesia, stimuli in one sensory modality elicit anomalous experiences in another modality. For example, the sound of a particular piano note may be 'seen' as a unique colour, or the taste of a familiar food may be 'felt' as a distinct bodily sensation. We report a study of 192 adult synaesthetes, in which we administered a structured questionnaire to determine the relative frequency and characteristics of different types of synaesthetic experience. Our data suggest the prevalence of synaesthesia in the adult population is approximately 1 in 1150 females and 1 in 7150 males. The incidence of left-handedness in our sample was within the normal range, contrary to previous claims. We did, however, find that synaesthetes are more likely to be involved in artistic pursuits, consistent with anecdotal reports. We also examined responses from a subset of 150 synaesthetes for whom letters, digits and words induce colour experiences ('lexical-coiour' synaesthesia). There was a striking consistency in the colours induced by certain letters and digits in these individuals. For example, 'R' elicited red for 36% of the sample, 'Y' elicited yellow for 45%, and 'D' elicited brown for 47%. similar trends were apparent for a group of non-synaesthetic controls who were asked to associate colours with letters and digits. Based on these findings, we suggest that the development of lexical-colour synaesthesia in many cases incorporates early learning experiences common to all individuals. Moreover, many of our synaesthetes experienced colours only for days of the week, letters or digits, suggesting that inducers that are part of a conventional sequence (e.g. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday...; A, B, C...; 1, 2, 3...) may be particularly important in the development of synaesthetic inducer-colour pairs. We speculate that the learning of such sequences during an early critical period determines the particular pattern of lexical-colour links, and that this pattern then generalises to other words. (c) 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Keyword Psychology, Experimental
colour perception
demographics
cognitive development
language
multimodal perception
synaethesia
Spatial Ability
Synesthesia
Perception
Foundations
Prevalence
Mechanisms
Navigation
Literacy
Speech
Words
Q-Index Code C1

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Excellence in Research Australia (ERA) - Collection
Queensland Brain Institute Publications
 
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Citation counts: TR Web of Science Citation Count  Cited 173 times in Thomson Reuters Web of Science Article | Citations
Scopus Citation Count Cited 186 times in Scopus Article | Citations
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Created: Thu, 18 Oct 2007, 00:15:40 EST