12 Types of synesthesia and their characteristics

  • Aug 24, 2022
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Types of synesthesia and their characteristics

Imagine trying a dessert, say a strawberry shortcake, and associating its flavor with the color purple. Or make sure the color orange is associated with a specific musical note. Here is a description of how people who experience synesthesia experiences can perceive the world, which can be very diverse and profound.

If you want to learn more about this phenomenon, don't miss out on this Psychology-Online article in which we will explain the types of synesthesia that exist and her CARACTERISTICS. Find out how many synesthesias there are and how they differ from one another.

You may also like: What is synesthesia in psychology: causes and types


  1. what is synesthesia
  2. linguistic synesthesia
  3. phonosymbolic synesthesia
  4. representative synesthesia
  5. perceptual synesthesia
  6. Ordinal linguistic personification
  7. Chromesthesia
  8. Spatial sequence synaesthesia
  9. Mirror touch synesthesia
  10. auditory-tactile synesthesia
  11. numerical synesthesia
  12. Lexical-gustatory (and sonorous-gustatory) synaesthesia
  13. misophonia

What is synesthesia.

According to its Greek etymology, the word synesthesia comes from the words - syn, together; aisthanesthai, perceive - which means "simultaneous perception". More precisely, it can be defined as an intermodal and transmodal phenomenon consisting of the perception of a datum through at least two different sensory channels, among them, the one preferred by the type of perception and another. In other words, if you hear a sound and smell a particular smell, you are having a synesthetic experience.

Although initially it was only interpreted as an expression of psychopathology (specifically hallucinations), in more recent times it has been studied with great interest, since it is considered an absolutely normal perceptual modality, although rare, that denotes a sensitivity particular.

Qualities of synesthesia

At least four qualities of synesthesia can be listed:

  • Is stable: the subject who perceives a datum in a synesthetic way will tend to perceive it with this modality throughout life.
  • It is real: Synesthesia is an expression of a real perception of the subject, which is not only imagined.
  • It is involuntary: Synesthesia is performed automatically, as if it were a reflex.
  • It's one way: if when listening to a certain noise you can also perceive a certain perfume, it is not said that by smelling this perfume you can hear the noise in question. This means that the connection between one direction and another is in one direction.

If you want to know more, in this article we tell you what is synesthesia in psychology: causes and types.

Linguistic synesthesia.

Linguistic synesthesia is the activation of various senses due to the association that the subject makes between a word and another type of sensation. A person experiencing this type of synesthesia. also called grapheme-color, can associate individual letters of the alphabet or numbers (graphemes) with a specific color. In some cases, even whole words can have their own tone.

This type of synesthesia tends to appear during the early school years, when the child first comes into contact with graphemes. This type of synesthesia is strongly influenced by experience, mainly responsible for the association itself and for all types of synesthesia that have been identified so far.

Grapheme-color synesthesia is one of the most widespread and studied. In fact, some people find it very beneficial to have grapheme-color synesthesia, as it has been shown to aid memory and, by extension, learning. Discover how to improve memory to study in this article.

Phonosymbolic synesthesia.

In this type of synesthesia, what happens is that some words or phrases are made up of particular linguistic sounds to make the pronunciation refer to a synesthetic experience in which, in addition to sight, the ear canal is also involved. For example, the poetic expression "rustle the leaves" presents an alliteration so that the reader, while pronouncing Those words, can hear the sound of leaves moved by the wind.

representative synesthesia.

In cases of representative synesthesia, a representation of aesthetic synthesis can occur, when at the multimedia level a product is reached that involves the activation of several senses. as an aesthetic translation, when a product monomedial, like a painting, studied with the intention of also activating another sense.

Types of synesthesia and their characteristics - Representative Synesthesia

perceptual synesthesia.

Pure synesthetic perception is a phenomenon that does not involve other cognitive processes, but rather refers to the perception of a datum through multiple sensory channels. In the case, for example, of individuals capable of "seeing colors" of words. It is a non-pathological condition, but rare at the level of diffusion in the population.

Ordinal linguistic personification.

In ordinal linguistic personification, the synaesthete perceives ordered sequences as numbers, letters, days or months cas if they had personality traits and gender intrinsically different. For example, the synaesthete may feel that the letter A is female, the letter T is male, and the letter M is genderless.

Furthermore, you can also perceive number 5 as subtle and number 9 as demanding. Sometimes even letters or numbers have personal relationships with each other. For example, B and R are friends and neither of them can stand Y.


This type of synesthesia is also known as color sound synesthesia and can be explained simply as see the sounds. In chromesthesia, the sounds heard by the synaesthete are associated or perceived as particular colors. The synaesthete hears the sound like everyone else, however, in any case where the sound is heard, simultaneously and naturally experience a color that remains more or less constant with that sound specific.

Some chromeesthesia synaesthetes take advantage of their condition by using sounds, such as the playing of a piece of music, as a way to help them relax.

Types of synesthesia and their characteristics - Chromesthesia

Spatial sequence synesthesia.

The synesthesia of spatial sequences is sometimes called visual-spatial synesthesia and is one of the most intriguing types of synesthesia, where sequences such as numbers, letters, months and dates are perceived as points in space. A synaesthete experiencing this phenomenon can see the spatial arrangement in her "mind's eye" or in the actual space around her.

For example, there are synesthetes with spatial sequence synesthesia who, when thinking about letters, can see A further away than B and perhaps B higher than C. The arrangement can take different forms, for example columns, spirals or circles.

Another example of people with this type of synesthesia is that they perceive the time on a clock as located at specific points in the space around them. Therefore, 12 o'clock has a fixed position, as well as o'clock 1, 2, etc. You can turn to the position of each hour, to concentrate on it and move towards it.

Mirror touch synesthesia.

This is one of the rarest types of synesthesia and one that has the highest chance of being a acquired condition (as opposed to congenital) in a synesthete. In mirror contact synaesthesia, the synesthete feel the same sensations as someone else. The feeling of touching the mirror can be triggered by real situations, in person or by looking at someone on a screen.

For example, as she watches a doctor put a cold stethoscope on her baby's back, a mother feels the sensation on her back. Another example would be while watching a friend rubbing a sore spot on his shoulder, feel the same feeling to rub on the shoulder. Or perhaps, while sitting next to someone on the bus who begins to grind their teeth, the synaesthete feels the same uncomfortable sensation in their mouth.

Auditory-tactile synesthesia.

Auditory-tactile synesthesia occurs when the sounds heard by the synaesthete produce a tactile sensation in certain areas internal and external of the body. One sound may be perceived as a tingling sensation for one synaesthete, while for another that The same sound is perceived as the pressure that we normally associate with something pressing on our skin.

Sounds may be reported as sensations of heat or cold, tickling, feather brushing, or electric shocks.

Types of synesthesia and their characteristics - Auditory-tactile synesthesia

numerical synesthesia.

In numerical synesthesia, the synesthete involuntarily sees a mental map of any group of numbers he thinks of. The dispositions in the number form of synesthesia differ from the conventional number line that we are taught at school and may be idiosyncratic (unique to each synaesthete), and unchanged for the life of the synaesthete.

The synesthete may have a particular form for the months of the year and one for the dates. In addition, the numerical forms that are perceived are not linked to the colors and they do not necessarily possess any form of symmetry. Number shapes can be complex or simple and can involve curved or straight lines or a combination of both.

Lexical-gustatory (and sonorous-gustatory) synaesthesia.

A person who has lexical-gustatory synesthesia hear the wordsboth spoken and written, as different tastes, smells and textures in the mouth or feel the flavors in the head. The phenomenon has been shown to include non-lexical sounds, that is, sounds not related to words such as music or the sound of a jackhammer. Hence the distinction, sometimes, of sound-gustatory synesthesia.


Misophonia is a condition in which the synaesthete experiences negative and aggressive emotional reactions to sound. It has been described as a hate for the sound and the most common triggers are male-related sounds such as breathing, chewing, and lip licking. It is important to note that the sounds that trigger misophonia tend to be everyday and unavoidable sounds.

Types of synesthesia and their characteristics - Misophonia

This article is merely informative, in Psychology-Online we do not have the power to make a diagnosis or recommend a treatment. We invite you to go to a psychologist to treat your particular case.

If you want to read more articles similar to Types of synesthesia and their characteristics, we recommend that you enter our category of neuropsychology.


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  • Serenes (2021). I diversi tipi di sinesthesia spiegati. Recovered from: https://www.serenis.it/articoli/i-diversi-tipi-di-sinestesia-spiegati/
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