Is synaesthesia teachable?


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I don’t have any sort of strong synaesthesia, but there’s a certain shade of pink that smells powerfully of mint and necco wafers.

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If I’m just dozing off and am jolted awake by a noise, frequently I see a color pattern associated with it. AFAIK, the pattern has never repeated itself. I also visualize calendar time as a series of hills, valleys, and plateaus. I think many people have one or two quirks that fall under synaesthesia.

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I have temporarily experienced synaesthesia several times in my life. These experiences involved compounds which have been oft discussed here on BoingBoing… ahem.

Also, thank you Dr. Hoffman…


I used to live near a fellow from whom synaesthesia could be acquired, until they arrested him.


I’d bet with some mild hypnotism you could awaken it in most people. Might be fun to try.

I get the same thing you describe when dozing off and getting startled or if wide awake and startled.

A friend of mine’s comment on those compounds was something along the lines of “Our generation had access to magic, and we let them take it away.”

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I had never thought of myself as having this, but the discussion of time as a curve indicates that I am.

For as long as I can remember, years on the calendar have always had very specific positions on the world map. The 17th and 18th centuries run along the eastern shore of the United States, the 19th from roughly Georgia though to the CA/AZ border, the 20th century runs south to north, with the 1960s and 1970s in the Bay Area, and extending through to the Canadian border. The 23rd and 24th centuries are in Yukon/Alaska. Running backwards, the 15th century is in central France and time runs across Europe, with the 10-11-12th centuries in the Balkans (it’s a bit shapeless between 300 and about 900AD) the 2nd century in Turkey and then runs toward Jerusalem which is the year 0. Prehistoric time begins to fade and lose its shape somewhere over the Indian Ocean (although BCE recorded history cuts through Egypt).

This is fine for American history, but it sometimes creates a block when trying to place certain events in their right location. British Industrialization occurs in my brain, first, in Alabama and then I have to move it to where it belongs. If someone notes “June 6, 1944” my brain believes that to be not in Normandy, but on Highway 1 just south of Carmel.

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I once dated a synaesthete who thought she had super powers.

Just to be clear… did she think that was, itself, a super power, or did she also think she could fly or shoot optic blasts or something?

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Greens often taste green. Oranges taste orange. To me, it’s not JUST that they have certain unidentifiable flavors that I’ve come to associate with greens or oranges, (although I’m sure that’s where it started, like is described in the story with letters that get associated with colors), but the tastes themselves actually feel more like colors to me. Peas taste particularly green, moreso than other greens.

I always assumed it’s like that for everybody, but I don’t know… either way, either everybody has a tiny bit of synaesthesia tendencies, or I also have my story of “one or two things”

(PS, Even though I would describe cinnamon as brown, it tastes red. Though maybe having lots of cinnamon-candies as a kid that were red, tainted me forever)

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Those reading here may be interested in the book, ‘Struck by Genius, How a Brain Injury Made Me a Mathematical Marvel’, by Jason Padgett and Maurein Seaberg. It contains a lot of information interesting to synaesthetes. I believe tai chi trains synaesthesia - linking vision with sense of touch. Some tests of chi show that a person claiming to be able to feel another person’s chi cannot do so when the other is (or is not) hidden behind a veil. I’ve trained in tai chi for years and am able to feel chi from another, yet being a skeptic do not believe it is a Magical energy, but one of the magical facets of our mind-body connections which has not been fully explored scientifically.

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Teaching synaesthesia: experiencing vision/touch synaesthesia

Chi translates as energy. In feeling external chi/energy (i.e. experiencing vision/touch synaesthesia) there are some fairly simple techniques. You can find videos on YouTube. The method I teach:

  1. stand for a minute and relax
  2. extend your arms forward slightly in front of your stomach
  3. hold your palms, relaxed, a few inches apart, one above the other
  4. focus on the feelings in your palms
  5. without touching, slowly stroke one palm above the other

My energy rises more quickly if I walk slowly in coordination with the hand movements. You should begin to feel a slight tingling that coincides with the movements. Extra credit: after you have a strong feeling of energy in your palms hold your palms about 6" apart and have someone pass their palm between yours. Can they feel your energy?

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