22 October 2004

--- UK Researcher Doesn't Think So

Here's an interesting research study from London:

If you detect a colorful aura around people you love, it doesn't mean you have psychic powers.

The study noted that some people actually do see colors in response to people or words that evoke emotion. This condition is called emotion-color synaesthesia.

"A popular notion is that some people have a magical ability to detect the hidden emotions of others by seeing a colorful aura or energy field that they give off. Our study suggests a different interpretation. These colors do not reflect hidden energies being given off by other people, rather they are created entirely in the brain of the beholder," study author Dr. Jamie Ward, of the University College London's psychology department, said in a prepared statement. [Health section, Forbes]

Synaesthesia comes from two Greek words meaning "united sensations." In doctor-speak, it is actually a broad neurologic term used to describe a cognitive condition in which sense interpretations (sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch) become sort of "fused," or are expressed jointly in two different modalities. In layman's terms, synaesthetes are capable of seeing sounds, hearing colors, and tasting touch or tactile sensations. Still another way to illustrate is to give real-life examples from synaesthetic persons or synaesthetes themselves:

The sounds of musical instruments will sometimes make me see certain colors, about a yard in front of me, each color specific and consistent with the particular instrument playing; a piano, for example, produces a sky-blue cloud in front of me, and a tenor saxophone produces an image of electric purple neon lights. I also have had colored taste sensations; for example, the taste of espresso coffee can make me see a pool of dark green oily fluid about two feet away from me. [Sean Day's Synaesthesia website]

Majority of synaesthetes are female, and it is known to in about 1 in 2,000 people. It is genetically-acquired and therefore, runs in families.

Famous synaesthetes include Vladimir Nabokov, Franz Liszt, John Mayer, Itzhak Perlman, Amy Beach, Richard Feynman, Nikola Tesla, and CNBC's Bill Griffeth.

Dr. Jamie Ward, lead author of the research study above, explained optimistically that:

"The ability of some people to see the colored auras of others has held an important place in folklore and mysticism throughout the ages. Although many people claiming to have such powers could be charlatans, it is also conceivable that others are born with a gift of synaesthesia," Ward said. [Health section, Forbes]

Do you want to test if you have a tendency to be a synaesthete?

Try the simple test below which I got from Wikipedia, and tell me if you have this fantastic ability, too!

After choosing your answer, check if you have the ability by clicking on this link.

NO CHEATING, please. It is just a simple test.

If you are still interested, here is a more comprehensive test to see if you have synaesthesia.

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