Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Reeser the Synesthete: The Science of Over the Edge

Vasily Kandinsky (who painted Composition VIII shown above) "imagined he could hear the tone of his paintings as he made them," says Kathryn Garfield in a Discover, December 2006 issue (page 19). In book two of the Over the Edge series, Reeser has a vision in which music becomes "chocolate in his ears and delicious, deep red roses in his mouth."

"This confounding perception--called synesthesia--was thought to affect at most about 4 percent of the population," continues Garfield in her article. "...but a University College London professor, Jamie Ward, has uncovered the best evidence yet that we may all have a bit of synesthesia."

Mr. Ward asked a random 200 visitors at a museum in London to view two musical animations. One animation was designed by synesthetes and the other by non-synesthetes. The volunteers preferred the synesthete-designed animation as a better match, animation to music, than the non-synesthete designed piece. The study indicates that though they didn't realize it, participants' senses were synchronized better than anyone imagined.

Wonder if unconscious synesthetes can learn to tap their unrecognized abilities? By the way, spinach really does taste green.