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Colored Hearing: Synesthesia as an Enhanced Reality

Cristiane de Oliveira's picture

Every human being has a different perception of the world; these contrasting perceptions, including interactions with colors and sounds, have influenced many artists in producing remarkable works of art and literature. The great Russian writer Vladimir Nabokov describes in his autobiography the intriguing relationship he has with letters and colors, something he refers to as "colored hearing": "The color sensation seems to be produced by the very act of my orally forming a given letter while I imagine its outline. The long a of the English alphabet has for me the tint of weathered wood, but a French a evokes polished ebony. This black group also includes hard g (vulcanized rubber) and r (a sooty rag being ripped). Oatmeal n, noodle-limp l, and the ivory-backed hand mirror of o take care of the whites...Since a subtle interaction exists between sound and shape, I see q as browner than k, while s is not the light blue of c, but a curious mixture of azure and mother-of-pearl." (Nabokov, 34). Nabokov's colored hearing is in fact the phenomenon of synesthesia - where two or more of the physical senses evoke concomitant feelings or perceptions.

Synesthesia is defined as a neurological state, although it is not an ailment and does not interfere with a synesthete's (one who experiences synesthesia) daily life or cognitive abilities. It is merely a case of perceptual difference, and most synesthetes think their experiences are neither positive nor negative, but sometimes even enjoyable.
There are five common types of synesthesia: grapheme-color, lexical-gustatory, ordinal-linguistic personification, musical-color, and number form. In grapheme-color synesthesia, the most common type of all, one perceives individual letters and numbers to have distinctive colors or hues, though no two synesthesia experiencing people will have the same colors for each letter. The much rarer lexical-gustatory synesthesia evokes different tastes of spoken words, like the word table triggering the taste of egg. Within ordinal-linguistic personification synesthesia, a synesthete links personalities for ordered series, like days of the week, letters, and months. For them, Tuesday might be passive, female, and colored pink, or 1984 might suggest a violent, untrusting personality. Because it is somewhat different from other types of synesthesia, and seemingly more common (children may feel this sort of personalization when learning language) it is more difficult to recognize. As the name might imply, musical-color synesthesia is when synesthetes view colors when listening to music, or even parts of music such as different tones or scales. Interestingly, the hue or color of a sound can be affected by varying pitches. Number form synesthesia allows those who experience it to form a mental number map that appears unintentionally whenever one thinks of a number. This type of synesthesia is speculated to occur because of a possible cross-activation of the brain's parietal lobe, since different areas of it process spatial and numerical cognition. In all of these forms, synesthetes usually have unchanged recognition of colors (a red A will always be red for them), though they all have very different experiences of how they perceive it and are affected by it.

Although synesthesia deals with such personal manners of perception, many of which every human being can "have" (like giving letters colors or personalities) due to their imagination or creative perspective, recognizing synesthesia is fairly uncomplicated. Neurologists or psychologists generally test and retest an individual over long periods of time on their perceptions of colored words and similar objects. Although synesthesia is easy to recognize and test, how to accurately diagnose and define it has been a source of debate for decades. In the last twenty years, researchers have refined the basic criteria for synesthesia; neurologists Kevin Dann and Richard Cytowic's definitions are currently the most accepted. They classify diagnosable synesthesia as having the following properties:
1. Synesthesia is involuntary and automatic. (Cytowic)
2. Synesthetic images are spatially extended, meaning they often have a definite "location". (Cytowic)
3. Synesthetic percepts are consistent and generic (i.e. simple rather than imagistic). (Cytowic)
4. Synesthesia is highly memorable. (Cytowic)
5. Synesthesia is laden with affect. (Dann)
6. Synesthesia is nonlinguistic and somewhat ineffable. (Dann)
7. Synesthesia occurs in people with normal, non-injured, non-diseased brains. (Cytowic, Dann, various).

As it is previously mentioned, synesthesia is believed to occur due to a cross-activation within areas of the brain. The area of the brain in which color processing occurs is beside the area which identifies numbers and letters; thus information may be mismanaged or cross-activated in both areas, creating the experience of synesthesia. It is speculated that synesthetes may also suffer from left-right brain confusion, and have difficulty in writing and performing mathematics. At the same time, synesthetes seem to enjoy and excel in creative activities, and offer an infinite source of research on the function of the human brain (and how information can "cross over" into other areas) as well as on states of consciousness.

Generally, synesthesia is speculated to be to an extent, hereditary. Nearly four percent of the population reports being a synesthete. These are naturally occurring, non-induced clusters of synesthesia within families, and are fairly common (for example, Nabokov's mother, like he, was a synesthete). A newer theory stemming from the hereditary synesthesia idea suggests that its mode of inheritance is due to sex - women tend to carry the "gene" for synesthesia, and are usually prevalent synesthetes. Supporting evidence of this "female gene" in synesthesia is the fact that all cases of inherited synesthesia have a female carrier or receptor, be it from mother to son or daughter, or father to daughter, but no male to male inheritance has ever been documented. Inherited synesthesia is not consistent, and like baldness, skips generations; the type of synesthesia that inherited synesthetes experience can also be vastly different.
There are also cases of adventitious synesthesia, or non-inherent synesthesia, which infer that this condition can be deliberately or naturally induced: individuals who consume psychoactive drugs, like lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and phencyclidine (PCP), those who experience synesthesia after a stroke or in conjunction to deafness and blindness have said to experience synesthesia or aspects of it. This sort of synesthesia "caused" by drugs or after a stroke is singular in which individuals who experience it only have synesthetic occurrences altering their musical-color, vision, or touch perceptions. Drug induced synesthesia does not last long, and since psychoactive drugs observably alter one's natural brain processes and perceptions, this type of synesthesia is not necessarily worth to research. However, non-inherent synesthesia does indicate that there is a significant link between consciousness and the condition.

Synesthesia is an uncommonly known condition, and although research and debate regarding its causes has been ongoing since the 1800s, we are nowhere near completely understanding all aspects of it. It is a distinct phenomenon with various consequences; it affects individuals and their perceptions of reality and life, and may be behind the creative genius of various artists, writers, and musicians such as Duke Ellington, Richard Feynman, Franz Liszt, Victor Hugo (American Synesthesia Association, site), and many others who, though have not been classified as full synesthetes, are pseudo-synesthetes, or merely incorporate synesthetic aspects into their work. Above all, synesthesia is also a prime example of our limited knowledge of the capability of the human brain as we know it. The simple fact that synesthesia exists can give us all hope that the key to discovering the immeasurable possibilities of our brains, and even realities, may be one day unlocked.


American Synesthesia Association. 2006. <>

Cytowic, R.E. Synesthesia: A Union of the Senses, 2nd ed. Massachusetts: MIT Press, 2002.

Cytowic, R.E. Synesthesia: Phenomenology And Neuropsychology
A Review of Current Knowledge. 2006. <>

Dann, K.T. Bright Colors Falsely Seen: Synaesthesia and the Search for Transcendent Knowledge. Yale University Press, 1998.

Eagleman, David M. The Laboratory for Perception and Action. 2006. <> (various links and articles from there as well).

Green, Jennifer. "Synaesthesia And Education." University of Cambridge Faculty of Education. 2006. Cambridge University. <>.

Nabokov, Vladimir. Speak Memory. New York: Vintage International, 1989. 34.

UK Synaesthesia Association. 2006. <>

* A link of note: If you think you might be a synesthete, you can take the Synesthesia Battery of tests and find out while contributing to research (pretty cool). Go to


Gequalt's picture

Adventitious Synesthete?

I don't know if this qualifies as Adventitious Synesthesia or not; but it's the closest explanation I can find to date.

I've had at least 2 minor strokes, possibly more. There was a period of my life that I was having petite seizures, that have since abated. Then, about 10 years ago, I injured my back in a fall. The spinal cord was swelling up so much that it was visibly pushing between vertibrae. I was put on a TON of medications. Doctors then said I was "depressed" and that I had to take MORE medications for that. I admittedly was depressed, though who wouldn't be when they are in pain 24/7 and laying on the floor on their back 90% of the time for weeks on end? Regardless, ONE of the things that changed for me was "feeling" sound, not just hearing it. It still persists to this day, and seems to be getting worse with time.

For me, every sound feels like a wave of water hitting me, wrapping around me, and then pulling through me like a piece of cheese cloth through cheese. Different sounds have different feelings in how they are pulled through me though. For example, the white noise of the fans from my computer is a gentle wave that surrounds me and becomes long threads pulling through me in a straight line until the sound abates. If another, similar white noise starts, the two will interact; sending eddies where the strings touch and cross. In contrast, high pitched, sharp, and sudden sounds are downright painful at times. The back up warning from vehicles goes shooting through me like barbed fish hooks spiraling as they pass; leaving the cringing, tingling, expectant dread most people get from the sound of fingernails on chalk boards . . . and picks up where the previous "beep" left off. A sudden noise, like a plate dropping on tile or a knock on a door, is almost like being stabbed in that it is quick and doesn't always pass all the way through me. I often physically react (cringe, pull away) from such sounds and "gasp" for breath as my heart is sent racing.

As messed up as it seems, it has helped me deal with another permanent side effect . . . hallucinations. Simply put, not "feeling" a sound is a litmus test to whether it's real or not. Of course, that leaves me asking "Did/Do I feel that?" a lot.


Breane's picture


I have music colour synesthesia, but it is a different instrument that triggers the different colour; clarinets are blue, voices are crimson, trumpets are white, the sharpness of each instrument or how well it is played determines whether it is a vibrant colour or dull. Different keys in music trigger different feelings, for example; d harmonic minor makes it feel as though my chest is tightening whereas f# harmonic minor feels like there are bugs crawling in my stomache. C major feels like playdoh and the note G feels pure. I don't know what that synesthesia is called though.

Chloe's picture

I hav OLP!

I found out that i have ordinal linguistic personification and so yeah. I was reading some of the other peoples comments who had OLP too, and it was funny because I got mad when I saw that their numbers weren't like mine. My favorite number is four because she is intelligent, calm, polite, and quiet. I hate the numbers 3 and 7 and the number 73 because 3 is really bratty, and 7 is a total jerk.

Serendip Visitor's picture

Odd synesthesia type thing

So i'm not sure what i have is synesthesia or what... When i listen to music, instead of seeing or feeling a certain color, i see a whole landscape/city/planet and i also feel and taste it. Also when i see artwork, it's almost as if i can jump right into it and touch the colors and swim in it and like live in it as if it was a world...My perception of the world is like it's as if it's a movie.... i can turn a house to a taste or feeling. and when i hear certain notes or harmonies in songs i get butterflies in my stomach and i just feel like i'm in euphoria. I get that same feeling when i see certain colors or landscapes....

Nhoj Rekab's picture

You have Described my life-long Synesthesia Experience

In addition to what you mentioned, my memories of certain events are very detailed and '3D'. With all the sounds, odors and spatial characteristics of the actual events. It is different than photographic memory because I cannot recall every bit of my history in this manner, but the ones that are truly are like re-living the experience again. It may have something to do with the mild to medium Auditory-Tactile Synesthesia I also seem to possess.

It is really nice to know there are others out there. I was in my teens before I realized everyone did not see the world like I did. It was twenty years after that before I realized there are others that do.

Laney's picture

Is it true?

Ever sense I was very young everything has had its own personality espacially colors and things I was attached to at the time ( like my baby blanket) But when i had brought it up around the age of 5 everyone laughed like i was joking so I had started to ignore their personalities so I would seem normal. But last year i read 'A Mango Shaped Space' By Wendy Mass so i looked up synesthesia and it truly intrested me as i got more into my reasearch i found that in one form everything had its own personality and it struck me that this it what I do! When i brought it up it turns out so does my sister and mother! They have done it unconciously for along time. I was very excited untill my family suggested that maybe it was just an over active imagination. Are they right or is this real synesthesia?
Thank you sincerly for eveyone who tries to helps out :)

Serendip Visitor's picture

You and your sister and

You and your sister and mother have synesthesia.

Sydney 's picture

In my opinion...

If you have synesthesia, then you have Ordinal-Linguistic Personification. However, I think some of it, like you having a personality for your blanket, was part of being a little kid. OLP has not been studied much until recently, so there isn't as much research about it, but scientists believe that it is caused by "cross-talk" between the area of your brain dealing with representing ordinal sequences, and the adjacent part of your brain that deals with the identification of personality and "theory of mind". I have OLP, and I always had genders and personalities for numbers, letters, days of the week, and months. They are all ordinal sequences. There have, however, been some synesthetes that attribute personalities to objects, but they have not been studied that much, so it's hard to say for sure whether it is synesthesia, or an active imagination. If you really would like to know, you can have your brain scanned to test for it, and they will tell you. Hope this helps!

Serendip Visitor's picture

I tend to "feel" or associate

I tend to "feel" or associate colors with certain songs. Like Nine In The Afternoon by Panic at the disco mostly greenish, but so is Opera Singer by Cake, then Castles In The Air by Don Mclean and Me and Bobby Mcgee by Janis Joplin are bright yellowish. I "feel" the colors more than "see" them (I just know they are that color), although with certain songs or high pitched noises I see bright flashes in my mind. Is this Synesthesia too?

Sydney 's picture

I think you have sound →

I think you have sound → color synesthesia! Most people with sound → color synesthesia do not actually see the colors projected in front of them, it's more like they "feel" the colors, or the just inherently know that the certain sound is a certain color. Every synesthete is different, so your synesthesia doesn't have to be the same as everyone else's. But congratulations! I think you've got it. :)

Atiya C's picture


I associate colors with personalities and genders; for example, black is rather emotionless, suave, and female. Baby blue is gentle and naive, while mustard yellow is tough, blunt, and male. Is this synesthesia?

Laney's picture

Is it true?

Most things have always had a personality for me since I was very young especially colors and things i was attached to at that age (like my baby blanket). I started reading a 'A mango Shaped Space' By Wendy Mass so i looked up synesthesia... only to find that it explains why everything has its own personality. I havnt brought this up since i was about 5 because everyone had laughed at me so at the time I just started to ignore everythings personalities but it turns out my sister and mom have done this to unconciously as i did for so long. Is this true synesthesia or just an over active imagination like my family (excluding my mom and sister) would like to beleive?

Serendip Visitor's picture

i have this too! it is not

i have this too! it is not just imagination because the things have personalities whether i'm paying attention or not eg i can feel that my laptop has a quiet masculine personality and my chair is irritable and resentful but i dont give them names or have an attatchment to them or think about them at all really they're just there and i can sense them. the only problem this causes is if i break something i feel awful and i have trouble throwing things away.

ShaShaSugarBomb's picture

i'm so glad to see that other

i'm so glad to see that other people have this too! for a long time, i didn't even notice it, because i've never known anything different. but after i explained an object's personality to my boyfriend, he said, "wow! your life must be amazing!" and that sort of stumped me. it was like, no, my life's not particularly amazing... but it got me thinking about the fact that, to me, literally EVERYTHING has a personality, and i guess that IS sort of an unusual thing for my brain to do. i wish there were studies on this particular type of synesthesia (if it even counts as synesthesia, i'm not quite sure what it is); i'd love to know more about it than what i can gather from my own experience.
(on a similar note, i also have ordinal linguistic personification (which is to be expected, considering everything else has a personality), spacial-sequence synesthesia, and sound-->color synesthesia.)

Serendip Visitor's picture

It certainly sounds like it!

It certainly sounds like it!

Anonymous's picture

Sound and colour

Does Sound and color synesthesia only happen with one sound or can it happen with a cluster of sounds like a song. because when I'm listening to a piece music i usually have vibrant colors flash before my eyes and every time i listen to the same song the colors appear the same.
and also does it happen all the or just sometimes? because sometimes the colors will appear less vibrant

Serendip Visitor's picture

Synaesthetic experiences can

Synaesthetic experiences can certainly be triggered by music. From what you describe it does sound as though you would qualify as having 'music-colour synaesthesia'. Of course the beauty of synaesthesia is that for every individual it is a unique experience. This means that for one person they may experience many colour associations to many different pieces of music or musical phrases, whereas others may only experience a limited number of associations. You can find out more information from your national Synaesthesia Association (I know this exists in at least the US and UK). Hope that helps (I'm a research student in the UK)

Anonymous's picture

musical-color synesthesia

I'm a 16 years old male and I have a few questions about musical-color synesthiesia. I am a firm beliver in the power of music because I play the violin. 1) Does this condition (if could be called that) turn on in ones brain slowly or does it sort of just happen over night? 2) Do people with this type of synesthiesia hear the music aswell as see color? 3)what would they see if they played the violin or the cello, an instument with many differnt tones? 4)Does the type of synethesia differ from person to person, or does it lean toward there interests? 5) How could I find out if i have it or not?, it sounds very interesting.

Thank you.

Serendip Visitor's picture

Synaesthesia is best

Synaesthesia is best described as a Cognitive condition so don't be shy using that expression - at this moment in time it isn't usually associated with any disabilities.
In answer to your questions:
1) It is hard to know how fast the onset of the condition is as many people fail to realise that what they are perceiving is different to what others see or hear. The best answer is a little scientific - basically as noted in the article above, the condition arises as a result of cross wiring in the brain. Now, in normal brain development as we experience certain things neuronal pathways are set up. When we are born there are countless neurons all meshed together. As pathways are reinforced (through repeated experiences) any neurons not used essentially die off. This is known as 'neuronal pruning' and one theory is that cross-wiring arises as a result of a failure to properly 'prune' neurons in earlier stages of development. There is even recent studies suggesting all babies experience sound-colour synaesthetic experiences! Most synaesthetes you talk to would tell you they remember there experiences as far back as there memory serves them, however there are few instances in which people have developed it later in life.
2) People with music-colour synaesthesia would be able to hear the music (as this is what would be inducing the colour sensation).
3)Music-colour synaesthesia is not quite the same as sound-colour synaesthesia. The difference is that the former is an association with a phrase of tones whilst the latter is an association with single tones (for instance the note C may induce the colour green). Every synaesthete experiences something unique, so whilst one might have many associations another may have few and they may be completely different. For example, person A has music-colour synaesthesia and experiences an explosion of colour when listening to Mozart's K545sonata and a completely different scene of colours when listening to Satie's gymnopedie. Person B has sound-colour synaesthesia and only experiences the colour mint green with the note middle C. Furthermore Person C has both sound and music-colour synaesthesia and sees wizzing circles of colour when listening to Jimi Hendrix's 'All along the watchtower' and experiences a shimmering blue when they hear the note E# and pale blue when they hear middle C.
4) Synaesthesia definitely differs from person to person! It is also more likely that their interests are curbed towards there synaesthesia as opposed to the other way around - you can't really choose, it's more like it chooses you.
5)Now this is a good question (and what I'm trying to find online)! You might have difficulty (like me) finding out online as experiments would involve playing music or sounds. I would start by asking yourself whether you can quantify your experiences? Do you often have the same sensations listening to the same phrases? Are they memorable and vivid? If you think so I would get in touch with your national Synaesthesia Association (I know this exists in the US and UK). They would be able to give you more advise and if you were interested you could offer to take part in some studies.

I agree with you, it does SOUND very interesting ;-)

Hope that helps (I am student at university in London and currently doing a research project on synaesthesia)

Serendip Visitor's picture

Maybe this is just me, but I

Maybe this is just me, but I have the music-color kind of synesthesia, and I've always had it...certain songs have always had colors to me, and they always stay the same. I don't recall it being a gradual or overnight thing; it just is.
I hear the music and see the colors, which I think is fantastic. It just adds an entire other dimension to what I listen to. I sometimes try to stop seeing the colors when I hear music, but I mostly just fail at it. The colors are apparently here to stay!
I play the violin, too, and this is just what happens to me. Each of the strings has a color: G is grey, D is green, A is red, and E is yellow. If I play, say, a B (indigo) on the G string, it's a grey shade of indigo, if I play it on the A string (or 3rd pos. on the D string or however you want to get to that pitch) it's like a reddish, shade of indigo, sort of more purpley, and B on the E string is a lighter indigo, almost sort of see-through. So when I play the violin, I see the notes as I play them, but the song has an overall color.
As far as I know, synesthesia differs for everyone. One of my friends has it, and it's fun to argue about what color a certain song is. We've had endless debates, but have only agreed on 2 songs. Synesthetes in general tend to be more music and art oriented, but they don't have to be. It's really kind of random.
Well, the only "official" way to know if you have it is to get some sort of MRI done, but that's expensive and kind of pointless, because synesthesia isn't harmful or anything. What I'd do is think about this: Do songs/pitches/sounds have colors to you? Have they always? Are the always constant? You could try making a list of songs/pitches and the colors you associate with them and if they remain constant after a period of time, then you can be pretty confident that you have it (this is what I did).

Anonymous's picture

Ordinal-linguistic personification

I don't know but I think I might have OLP. I'm 15 and just found out today that not everyone thinks Wensday is a brat lol. WIth my numbers, 1 is a woman, 2 is a man, and 3 is their hyper son. 4 is selfish and lazy, 5 is an athlete, and so on. But, I don't see colors so, could someone tell me if I do have OLP??

Anonymous's picture

Dude, you've totally got OLP.

Dude, you've totally got OLP. I'm in the same boat as you are. Although I don't see 1 as a woman...;)

Mandala-Woman's picture


Me too. 8 is a jerk, and 9 is self-righteous; 1 is male for me. I also hate when my age is a prime number (but maybe that is just the mathie in me). When I am in full migraine, my brain is full of very vivid memories, that all taste like poison. I am drawn to quad-symmetric structures (mandalas) - they taste good and make me a bit euphoric.
I had no idea that everybody doesn't think this way until my husband and I were watching a discovery piece on the subject about 10 years ago. I was agreeing with what they were saying and my husband of 15 years was shocked.
"Really? You have this?"
" don't?"
Of course for about an hour thereafter he was quizzing me on what colour letters and numbers are. Colour is not that strongly associated with me, more gender and personality.

Ted's picture

Is this a form of synesthesia

I can be touched on parts of my body and can hear the touch that sounds to me like static on the am radio band? Is this some form of synesthesia?

Serendip Visitor's picture

If the experiences are

If the experiences are consistent with their stimulus then it certainly sounds like it. If you want to know more I would contact the University of East London as they are currently doing studies on tactile synaesthetes (doesn't matter if you're a million miles away - they might at least be able to give you good answers to any questions you might have)

Maria's picture

I am a twin and we both have

I am a twin and we both have this:) we r 14, we have the most common form, associating colors with numbers and letters and words.. we r girls:D we thought it was normal until we asked our friends what colors they thought of the numbers and letters as and they were like whatru talking about lol, i recently found out its called synesthesia in my biology class. Im doing a project on synesthesia and i have to write a 4 page paper..luckyly im doing it with a partner but i still have to write 2 pages. :L

Anonymous's picture

synesthesia "shading"

I have always seen words as shades, as opposed to specific colours. As an
example, I know 2 Percheron horses. One is called Charlie and the other is
William. Charlie is a very dark dapple gray, whereas William is a very pale
dapple. In my mind, the word Charlie is very pale and the word William is very dark. I have to make a conscious effort to call the dark horse his proper
light name and vice versa. While all words are shaded in my world, names are
particularly shaded. The letters a,e,i tend to be lighter than the letters o and u.
Is this a form of synesthesia?

Serendip Visitor's picture

It certainly sounds like it -

It certainly sounds like it - fancy taking part in an experimental study?

Atiya C's picture


Congratulations! You've got synesthesia! Yes, shading rather than particular colors is still considered synethesia.

Anonymous's picture

Ordinal Linguistic Personification

I recently found out that I also have OLP. I have always seen letters, numbers (1 to 9), Days and Months as having personalities with letters having the strongest. As mentioned by someone else I don't think about the personalities I just see, hear or think about a letter and I know what kind of personality it has immediately. Plus, some letters have stronger or weaker personalities and they combine in words so that I can tell what the word's personality is. I found out that I was different whilst studying A-Level French. I was given a test (and forgive me if this is bragging) because I have always had a bizarrely large vocabulary, and of the 300 word test (most of which I had never seen) I got 282 right because I knew what they were from their personalities and their feel (the feeling that you get when you say them (force words are a pressure in your head, words such as velvet make my finger tips tingle). There is a couple of downsides though; like in maths. It annoys me doing calculations because some numbers shouldn't go together (like 7 and 3) and I hate having to put them together. I was also wondering if any one else got serious migraines and whether there was a link between synesthesia and migraines. I also wanted to say that my father has spatial synesthesia (with numbers appearing around him) and I have synesthesia (his son) so that is a male to male passing of synesthesia,

Looking forward to your response,

Anonymous's picture

Ordinal Lunguistic personification

I just found out one week ago that I have OLP. I thought that everybody looks at numbers,letters, days, months etc in a personified way. Generally when I deal,e.g. with numbers in maths, I don't really THINK a lot about their personalities, but I FEEL them... it's like when you talk with a person, you don't necessarily think of their personality, but you FEEL how is to eb with them, their colour, their texture somehow. But if you think more about them, their traits just spring in your mind.
For me 9 is a suave, a bit sensual, tall woman with good manner and a bit manipulative, but this mostly in oublic, when she's with her husband she gets possesive and manipulates him a bit too much. I have the feeling that 8 is teh husband, but when I think of 8 I thiink of a short, muscular, anrgy man, who likes physical exercise. Both 9 and 8 are dark, but 9 in an elegant way. Single numbers have more defined personalities, but all the numbers have personalities. Very big numbers are defined by teh digits which make the most impression on me. For example I love 1608. it's down to earth, interesting, original, full of life, natural, a bit sophisticated. The 6 makes it elegant, while 8 stable. But 6 and 8 give it a strong personality. 0 is just so it's not so crowded, so it's a bit clear, not simple, just clear. The 1 is necessary again to make the personality balanced and not too pushy. For me 6 is female, 8 is male. But as 6 it's in the beginning it has a stronger effect so overall it's feminine. But the 8 messes a bit up...
Letters are just as powerful as numbers, but less hazy. A is beatiful, intelligent, natural, suave, tall female who smiles a lot. F is arogant, a bit lazy, intelligent but too vain (male). R is very a high school, popular guy, who's very humorous and looks good, but thinks himself a bit too high. but generally sympathetic and loves to joke a lot. Happy. I hate G though, it's so pushy and never likes anything (male).
And months I just simply adore Novemner. it's calculated, original, relaxed but intelectually eager, observes quickly everything, beautiful male of about 25-30 years old. Very intelligent. September is a warm female, suave and pleasant enough. Very deep, brown eyes and deep personality. She has long hair.
I thought that everybody thought liek this about stuff, so it didn't occur to me till last week, when I read an article about synesthesia and I saw that there is Ordinal linguistic personification. I began to have suspitions, but I thought that mine is a mild form as while I'm working with numbers I have only the feeling. but when I thought more about them I realised how complex people tehy are. Oh, I have that in the word 'are' e is by r, because e is so lazy and unpleasant and intelectually inferior to r, who's a bit vain. But a is nice enough to forgive them and is just going along. r feels attracted by a, and a by r, but thinks him a bit too reckless and young.
huh, I wrote a bit too much. I hate c by h. But I like c alone, and I really really like h. But enough for now... I hate o... w is nice-ish.

Chloe's picture

I "feel" the personalities too!

Just like what you said, when I see numbers and have to do math with them, I feel like I know them really well, but its hard to find words for the personality unless I think. It helps me do math because I remember their "chemistry" and relationships, but whenever I see the number 73, I get really frustrated because I hate, hate, hate, 7 and 3 together. You're right! 0s make things so much less crowded and less tense. I have personalities for numbers from 1-9 and the rest are like groups of each number's personalities mixing together. I don't really have defined personalities for letters, only the "feeling" of knowing that I know what they are like. But, I can easily put genders on them. My numbers are so complex! Some of them have hidden personalities that only emerge sometimes, and sometimes, there are interesting relationships between them that pop up out of no where. It's like having a complex plot of a drama, always finding new things out about the characters, but it's all in your mind. I could probably write forever about their lives and relationships.

Anonymous's picture

Me too!

I have also had similar experiences with numbers and letters, but I haven't thought it unusual or have been diagnosed with OLP. Sometimes I even associate numbers and letters together...

Cordelia 's picture

Colored-Hearing Synesthesia Research in New York City

Hi Everyone,

My name is Cordelia Sendax and I am conducting a study on Colored-Hearing Synesthetes
at City College in Manhattan, NY under the guidance of Professor John Foxe, the director
of the Cognitive Neuroscience Program at CCNY. The study is exploring the fundamental
perceptual and physiological differences between synesthetes and non-synesthetes during
auditory-visual integration. Subject participation will include letting us record your brain
activity using a non-invasive electrical recording device called the electroencephalograph.
The experiment task is a simple reaction time task, in which you will be presented either a
red circle, a 1000 Hz tone, or both from a computer screen and will be asked to make a
button press response upon stimulus recognition. The experiment will take around 1-1.5
hours. While the recording session will take only about 1.5 hours, total time spent at the
lab will be around 4 hours, as putting on and taking off the EEG cap will
take some time, as will making some necessary adjustments to the cap
during the recording session. Study compensation is $12 per hour. If you're
interested in potentially participating in the study and live near the NY Tri-State area or
will be visiting this area, please email me at or call me at 1-646-
872-8346 so that you can be considered for study participation. I hope to hear from many
of you soon!

Cordelia Sendax

Burak Y.'s picture

Ordinal Linguistic Personification

Hello. I think, i have OLP. For example, 0 is moron and fat boy. 1 likes him. 1 has got leader spirit. 2 is a teenage girl. 3 is short boy. 4 is a rebellious woman, but she is good. 6 is sexy woman, 9 is sweet and so beautiful woman. But 6 always attack 9. 6 hates 9. Because, 9 is so beautiful, but 6 doesn't be jealous. Just hates her. 7 is umm... blonde man. 7 likes 6 and 9. 5 is a normal handsome man. 8 is muscular man(like Captain America). Also, i attach numbers to everybody. For example, i attach number 2 to teenage girls. I attach number 9 to so beautiful girls. Also, the number 11 is tall and innocent teenager. And also, the number 4 symbolises passion and rage. 6 symbolises sex. 5 symbolises... umm... how i explainnn... 5 symbolises nastiness. 1 symbolises leadership, etc... And also, the some letters have personifications. For example, A has got leader spirit too. B is so innocent male. C is a blonde girl. Ç(Yes, Ç. Ç exist in Turkish Alphabet.) is a ugly woman, etc... Is this Ordinal Linguistic Personification form of the Synesthesia or I just imagine these things? Maybe, I haven't synesthesia. I don't know.

Anonymous's picture

Colored Hearing: Synesthesia as an Enhanced Reality

Hi my name is Elizabeth,
In what I've read I can't be classified as any one specific Synesthete, but I am capable of some color-letter/number Synesthesia.I see months as a half circle in front of me, have personalities for numbers/letters/symbols/days of the week/months, have empathy for others to the point of feeling what their feeling(physically,emotional, or spiritually), have a hard time understanding most anything unless I first experience it using the 5 senses(but then I'm hard pressed to forgot it), people have mentioned that I'm a walking text book but I remain unmoved and still think I don't fully understand most of.... what I know. Have had "perfect pitch" since before I can remember(smaller then 4yrs.). And even came up with the oddest phrases, even at the age of 2 and a half, "mom, I want to be soaking warm," etc..
All my life I've struggled with academics, mainly spelling, reading, writing, and understanding what people say. Spelling is hard because when I try to spell by hand I get caught up in the letters' personality and they never seem to fit with their companions unless in military computer type/print(this resulted in having to practice the word oh so many times). Reading out loud is a battle, words come to life by the way I said them. Reading different print changes the meaning of the word, out loud or silent, color or a different shade of black(because it is different from the way I learned the word). tone of voice changes a word's meaning which effects how I perceive what people mean(resulting in misunderstanding , having them repeat, or my mind taking me on an imagination ride of pictures, colors, and stories). writing(ex. a paper) is hard unless I'm writing on something using a combination of the five senses and from my experience. To extract information from other's research for a paper is near impossible for me. the first time I tried I had a nervous brake down from trying so hard and now know why(without picturing someone else's experience, either by imagination or real life, I can't combine it with my own unless I can make it make sense).
Oh, and when someone says a word multiple times in different tones it never means the something to me, each has it's own meaning(and when "over played," so to say, it can be torture to the point of tears)
All my life people have said how unique my view points and one liners are, and I've always wanted to know myself better. But now that I've found the closest thing to defining me it still seem out of reach.
Is there any way you could enlighten, classify, or define "me" better?

Ness's picture

You probably won't read this

You probably won't read this but I'm sorry that synesthesia is such an unpleasant experience for you. I always regarded my combinations as the 'harmony set' or 'universal set'. Yes, there are conflicts with personalities between two letters. What I do is, with the letters/numbers I dislike, I use them to give meaning to the words or vice versa. "Good" means 'good', to me, 'g' and 'd' are both obedient people, they have mild and friendly colours and they work like good sisters, always cooperating so that's "Good"! With "Bad" though, 'a' and 'd' are both happy ones while 'b' is a little different - with the combination of these 3, things can be 'bad', unidealistic.

Try to find commonalities between the actual meanings and the personalities you perceive so you can focus on those that relate both. That way, you'll find it more useful. It's easier to note exceptions when you have synesthesia.

Ama's picture

Ordinal linguistic personification

Hi. I have Ordinal linguistic personification. It means that that numbers letters days and months all have there own specific personalities. For instance i could tell you that 6 is shy and i guess you could say a "doormat". She is a 12 year old girl who just "goes with the flow."She doesn't get along with seven who is an ill tempered 14 year old boy who is a bit of a bully to all the numbers execpt number nine.Number nine and seven are friends but number nine is a few years older than 7 and comes from a very rich family unlike 6. Thats just a small part of what i go through every day. I always hated math cause i didn't want to put certain numbers together in the same equation. That's just my life though.

jil's picture

research project

hello my name is jil and i am doing a research project for my 11th grade eng. class. i am doing my report on the different forms of synesthesia and i was wondering if it is not to much trouble could you please tell me what its like having ordinal linguistic personification??i think it would be great to hear it first hand.i have so many questions for you such as:
1. if the number is negative does it effect what you think of it??
2.what if the number is huge such as 5 billion.does that change anything??
3.does anyone in your family have it?? long was it before you noticed that not everyone thought of numbers the same as you??

Cris D.'s picture

Hi, Dene Sorry for the late

Hi, Dene Sorry for the late reply. I chose to write about synesthesia because I had noticed that so many artists experience it, or choose to depict it in their works, which I found so interesting. I don't think I am a synesthete, but certain emotions or situations appear to me in distinct, constant colors, which come out a lot in my writing. Have you had synesthesia all your life, or when did you notice it? Does your synesthesia affect your perceptions, emotions, or maybe serve you in a creative outlet? Thanks for your comment! Cris
Anonymous's picture

music-color synesthesia

My 4.5 year old daughter requests certain songs, not by their titles or key words - but by the color of the song. She gets frustrated with me when I don't turn on the "white" song or "pink" song. After experiencing this a few times, I began asking her on ocassion what color songs were and she quickly responds as if I should know. She almost seems annoyed that I ask. While she may experience synesthesia, I do not - so I guess I'm testing her a little bit to see if this is imaginary play or a real "gift". Reading this is a result of my first web search attempt at trying to determine if what she is doing is normal for a four year-old or if it's anything that should be concerning me. She is my first born and seems to me to be very bright, social, etc. Assuming she does have this condition - do you know if I should be doing anything to help her use it to her advantage? In any case, thank you for doing this research. It is helpful. Thank you!
Eddie's picture

Musical-Color Synesthesia

Your daughter is most likely a synesthete. I have the same form of synesthesia and its actually quite enjoyable. The best thing you can do for her is to get her tested via CAT scan. This will tell if she is deffinitely a synesthete or not.

Dene's picture


Hi Christiane. My partner, Annabella, is in your bio class and shared your writing on synesthesia with me because I am a synesthete. My letters, words, months and numbers are colored. I always thought this was normal and common until I read about synesthesia a few years back. I had assumed everyone had colored hearing. I'm wondering what sparked your interest in synesthesia, whether you are a synesthete, or possibly someone you know. Looking forward to hearing from you, Dene