What people with "calendar synesthesia" reveal about how our minds deal with time

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2016/11/16/what-people-with-calendar-sy.html

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Me me me! I 100% have this. My entire life, as long as I know, I’ve seen the centuries spread out along the continental United States, with the 1999/2000 boundary at US/Canada in Washington state, 1900ish turns the corner in Los Angeles (McKinley is killed around the Colorado River). The 19th century runs (appropropraitely so) through the US South – with most of teh Civil War taken place “in” Texas, the 1820s or so in Alabama/Georiga. The 18th century runs from 1800 (in New Hampshire or so), 1776 is in Philadelphia… and on from there.

By the way, the year 2300 is in about Fairbanks Alaska, so I’ve got global warming covered.



My mental calendar is also round (round-ish anyway, it’s bit oval really) but rotated so that December is in the spot where August is in the example image. I might not know the exact date, but I always know where on the circle we are. And, if someone tells me a date, my mind places it on my calendar.

Edit: I’ve always considered this and the way emotions have colors (but colors don’t have emotions), to be super mild synesthesia.


Fascinating. How does this tie in with people who have aphantasia? Do they handle time differently?

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Me me me! Me too! Months of year (bridge, suspended between New Year’s Eve’s/New Year’s Days… June and July are at the nadir… the lighting on a given month is roughly appropriate to it’s season in the northern hemisphere) and days of week (kinda similar to years, but more vague). (And don’t even get me started on the weird 3D construct that is the line of real numbers.) Actually… now that I think about it, the actual calendar years spanning back over the centuries do follow my weird 3D real-line construct… although this shape deviates at BCE from the shape of the negative portion of the real line in my mind.


Very cool! I similarly follow a circular pattern for the months in a year, with a ver distorted board-game style of loop. So January 1st is just slight off to the left of the top, and it goes counter-clockwise. Some are stretched or compressed more than others though. most of them are on the upper left side, with September around 8:00, November starts around 6:00, and December goes all the way from 4:00 to 12:00.

Does anyone else get a similar image for days of week? I see a similarly distorted loop, again counter-clockwise, with Monday at the bottom, Friday at the top, and Saturday and Sunday consuming the left side. Again not a perfect circle though, roughly similar to a capital “D” in shape.


Hm - I see the hours of the day that way too; a nice tidy circle with 9am on the right, noon at the bottom, 9pm on the left, and midnight at the top.

I certainly see days of the week as physical thing – but it’s a pretty boring thing that looks like a slice of a monthly calendar!

Interestingly, when asked what they see when they hold the date “November 8, 2016” in their minds, they all unanimously answered “a stinking pile of fetid manatee shit”


This may be more common (or at least more common among BBers) than realized. I tend to visualize time as a topographic map, with plateaus and cliffs, slowly ascending out of the past. for example, the years 1967-1971 look like a scarp or the edge of a mesa, and the 70s are the top of that mesa. The year is a smooth, sunlit ascent from January into mid-August with occasional small potholes, then starts descending in a series of small drops into the Thanksgiving-Christmas season. A geologist would be tickled with this fault thrust block notion of time.


opposite. if anything, I’m time-blind. assigning numbered values to things is not a strong point with me at all. Pathways and shapes all day, but not quantified.

I don’t smoke anymore, but i’ve always empathized with the
Tommy Chong line “Oh, I’m not into time, man.”


It looks like I get to join the throng of bbs denizens who totally picture time lwith a spatial component.

I have well defined loops for days of the week, seasons, seasons and months of the year, and what’s more, I know what caused my mind to pick up on these loops.

Days of the week ans seasons are both segments on a wheel.
Days in the week are white segments separated by red lines, with the weekend at the top, and the new week (Which very definitely starts on Monday) starting off offset because the top of the wheel is at midnight on Saturday.
Seasons are quadrants, that go clockwise, Spring in the top left.
Months of the year are a strange flattened wheel, with months within a season being linearly next to one another, but the whole thing loops around within the seasons (don’t worry, it doesn’t make much sense to me, either)

And they are all lifted directly from the calendar I had on my wall as a child.

Numbers are a different matter. I have one number line, like an infinite ladder, that generally goes up and down, but occasional groups of 10 numbers corresponding to significant blocks of 10 numbers are at right angles to the rest, like a step in the infinite line. For instance, the decade I was born in, numbers that are years go horizontally after that up to 2000 (no, my brain doesn’t insist on the ‘counting from zero’ argument).

And I have no idea what happened yesterday. Does that put me somewhere on the scale?


I do this. June is hot December. September is a warmish March. Spring and fall correspond as do summer and winter. I don’t think of it visually but that image sums up how I’ve always compared times and seasons. Cool!

I’ve got a bad case of time vertigo myself. People are constantly looking at me with a shocked face and saying “Dude, that was like [amount of time orders of magnitude different from the approximation I’ve just thrown out] ago.” I should be better, I’m a web developer, but I can’t give a time estimate to save my life.


I’ve often wished Google Calendar would let me change the orientation of the day, so that “morning” is at the bottom and “evening” is at the top. As near as I can tell, there’s no workaround for this.


Mine is a distorted timeline/analog radio band, but 3D, and the orienting point is my birthday. There is a zoom effect for smaller units of time, down to seconds. It has always been this way for me and made learning to read an analog clock VERY difficult until I figured out that I could translate the clock circle onto my timeline.


Odd. I popped in to say I basically have face-blindness for the passage of time. I visualize fine, definitely don’t have aphantasia, but every day is basically the same day over and over for me. It’s problematic, but don’t take it too literally, I don’t have amnesia.


There’s also Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s calendar of the ages, from the big bang to current era over a one sheet calendar year.

Me too. My calendar is teardrop shaped, with Dec/Jan at the peak. I’m always looking at it hovering over the bottom of July (at the widest part of the calendar) The month names flip rotation between May and June.

I studied synesthesia when I was getting my neuroscience degree, and was hella jealous of all the music–>color synesthetes. Realizing I had calendar synesthesia made me feel a little better.

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