Cross-modal associations in synaesthesia: vowel colours in the ear of the beholder

Moos, A., Smith, R. , Miller, S. R. and Simmons, D. R. (2014) Cross-modal associations in synaesthesia: vowel colours in the ear of the beholder. i-Perception, 5(2), pp. 132-142. (doi: 10.1068/i0626)

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Human speech conveys many forms of information, but for some exceptional individuals (synaesthetes), listening to speech sounds can automatically induce visual percepts such as colours. In this experiment, grapheme–colour synaesthetes and controls were asked to assign colours, or shades of grey, to different vowel sounds. We then investigated whether the acoustic content of these vowel sounds influenced participants’ colour and grey-shade choices. We found that both colour and grey-shade associations varied systematically with vowel changes. The colour effect was significant for both participant groups, but significantly stronger and more consistent for synaesthetes. Because not all vowel sounds that we used are “translatable” into graphemes, we conclude that acoustic–phonetic influences co-exist with established graphemic influences in the cross-modal correspondences of both synaesthetes and non-synaesthetes.

Item Type:Articles
Keywords:coloured vowels, cross-modal perception, colour vision, synaesthesia, vowel sounds
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Moos, Ms Anja and Smith, Dr Rachel and Simmons, Dr David
Authors: Moos, A., Smith, R., Miller, S. R., and Simmons, D. R.
Subjects:B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
College/School:College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > English Language and Linguistics
College of Science and Engineering > School of Psychology
Journal Name:i-Perception
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2014 The Authors
First Published:First published in i-Perception 5(2):132-142
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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