by Colette Yuen
Last week, while watching an interview with the American singer-songwriter Billie Eilish, I came across a new word: synesthesia. For some reason, this word fascinated me, so I looked the word up on the internet. To put it simply, synesthesia means having mixed perceptions. According to Wikipedia, synesthesia is ‘a perceptual phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway.’ The most common type of synesthesia is grapheme-colour synesthesia, where individual letters of the alphabet and numbers are perceived in a particular colour by an individual.
Out of curiosity, I did a test on https://synesthesia.com/#/Task/0/0/gateway-synesthesia-test-synaesthesia-test-quick-version/1011 to see what will the results come to. There are two parts to the test and in the first part, letters, numbers, weekdays and months appear on the screen twice throughout the test in random order and the participant gets to pick the colour they ‘see’ them in. Since synesthetic colours are consistent, by asking the colour of a number or letter an individual perceive then repeat the same question later, we would know they are a synesthete if they give the same/ a similar colour both times.
The second part of the test is a reaction test. The participant decides if the displayed letters are in their colour. For my first attempt of the test, I got 133 for my ‘average colour difference’, which is the result of the first part of the test. People who have synesthesia have an average colour difference from 0-90. Surprisingly, I got 100% in my reaction test, while the average score of synesthetes is around 90%. There is also a score for colour variety, which indicates how varied are the colours that a participant has chosen. A good colour variety score is above 100.
After I finished the test, I explored the website:
and came across the ‘Free Synesthetic Exploration’ section. I tried out their exercises and took the same test two days later. The exercise that I found the most interesting is the ‘drawing sounds’ exercise. 5 sounds were played throughout the audio and the participant is invited to draw out what they could associate with each sound. I was amazed by how far my imagination took me, I filled up a whole sheet of paper for each drawing! I tried doing the same thing while listening to songs that I like. Not only did I up with my version of ‘background story’ that I think matches the song, it gave me a whole new insight towards the song. I was shocked to see how much my score has improved just after two days. My ‘average colour difference’ score decreased from 133 to 89, and my colour variety increased from 123.1 to 142.88.
Overall, the synesthetic experience was extraordinary to me. I never knew someone could be ‘trained’ to have synesthesia through guided meditation and I am so pleased with the outcome. I have now become more aware of my senses and therefore the things happening around me. Why don’t you try taking the test and see where it will lead you to? I am sure it will be an exceptional experience. Even if you don’t get much out of the process, at least you have rested your mind while going through guided mediation, there’s nothing to lose!