Are You A Synesthete? 7 Synesthesia Tests to Find It Out
Do you wonder if you are a synesthete? Synesthesia tests are useful tools to find clarity for your synesthetic journey.
Synesthesia tests are the gold standard in science. Still, do not take the results too seriously.
Synesthesia tests have their pros and cons. So, see them instead as a fun tool to become aware of your synesthetic perceptions. And not as a 100% correct diagnostic tool.
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How does it work?
In the Sensorium of synesthesia.com, you find our Synesthesia-Test series. There are 7 tests about the colors of numbers, letters, weekdays and months.
One test takes between 5 and 25 minutes. These tests are similar to the synesthesia battery and scientifically backed up.
“Learn to meditate if you hope to experience Synesthesia.”
A synesthesia test is the first step towards increasing your synesthetic awareness. Do some Synesthesia Mediation activities to explore your senses further. They help you to discover and become aware of your synesthesia in daily life.
*** If you keep reading, this may influence your synesthesia test outcome ***
How do consistency tests work?
The synesthetic colors are consistent. In other words, the color of letter “A” does not change for a synesthete over time. This principle of consistency is the foundation of the synesthesia tests.
Test Re-Test Approach
Ask somebody the colors of letters, numbers, weekdays and months. And then repeat this after a while. If the participant names the same (or at least a similar) colors for a given letter, it is considered typical synesthetic.
These consistency tests are also called tests of genuineness. They test if the experience of colors in genuinely synesthetic.
It is considered the “gold-standard” of diagnosing synesthesia. However, it is not that easy as you will learn in this article.
Simple set up to test for synesthesia
This simple set up allows investigating if somebody may be a genuine synesthete.
This type of synesthesia test is called consistency tests due to this testing for color consistency. Or some researchers call it color congruency.
Different Test interfaces possible
The cool thing about this consistency test is that one can conduct a test very easily. For example, you can do such a test with friends and family by only writing down the colors on a piece of paper. Afterward, you repeat it and compare the colors.
Online you find different color picker schemes. The one that we use that involves all the 16 Mio colors for the RGB space.
Some researchers, such as Nicola Rothen, Ph.D., like to work with hue, saturation, and lightness.
In other setups of such tests, they use a subset of colors.
In the end, there are many different possibilities on how to conduct such a consistency test. The principle of test re-test color choices remains the same.
Choose the color that matches best.
The synesthesia test procedure is always similar. You see a letter, number, weekday or a month and then you choose the color that fits best for you.
But there are additional tasks that help to investigate the nature of such colors.
Some people may have an excellent memory. So they may be able to memorize the colors that they choose.
Or some people make specific associations. For example, if the Bus Number 7 in their town is blue, that they then name blue for number 7.
Reaction Tests aka Stroop Task
There are some ways to filter those memorized color associations.
One is called the Stroop task or as we name it, reaction test.
For example, letter “A” is red for you.
During the Stroop Task, the letter “A” is either displayed in Blue or Red. You need to decide as quickly as possible if the letter “A” is in your color or not.
The synesthesia test measures your reaction time and if you were right in determining if ti was your color or not.
Participants that do not resonate with synesthesia have a longer reaction time.
Synesthetes react faster and with higher precision.
For synesthetes this is intuitive. Hence the reaction time is shorter.
The shorter the reaction time, the more typical synesthetic it is.
Measuring the reaction time is a scientific procedure. But due to technical limitations on the internet, we cannot guarantee full experimental conditions. Enjoy the reaction time with caution.
And yes, it is fun! And we have it also as a feature in our synesthesia test.
Color Diversity: Is it all just black?
We learned that if somebody chooses the same colors for a given letter, that this is typical synesthetic. And if they pass the reaction test, this is affirmed.
But what happens if somebody just chooses black for all the letter?
Choosing black for all the letters is not typical synesthetic
It is kind of intuitive for many people since the letters are often written in black on white.
And if somebody chooses black for all the letters, then in the evaluation it would mean that they have chosen similar colors. And they would also be able to score well during the Stroop task.
But black letters are not necessarily typical of synesthetic experiences.
There is another measurement that we involve in our evaluation. You find that as well in the Synesthesia Battery.
It is the color variance. Or how we call it: color diversity.
What is the color diversity?
As an extreme example:
A B C
All three letters are black. The color diversity is very low because it is just black.
A B C
These three letters have all different colors. So the color variety is high.
Such measurement helps to ensure to that participants that only choose the black as color are not classified as synesthetes.
How to measure the similarity of colors.
We use some arithmetics to measure the similarity of any given colors.
Colors behave like points in space. If you have two colors, they are like two points. You can measure the distance between those points, colors respectively.
If the distance I big, then this means that the colors are very different. If the distance is small, the colors are similar or the same.
Synesthesia Battery: the Standart Test
The Synesthesia battery of Eagleman et al. is the standard test that is used by researchers to verify synesthetic participants for their studies. They have evaluated this test and approved the reliability.
Our synesthesia test also fulfills these scientific standards. As we built the synesthesia tests on synesthesia.com, we also oriented on the findings and standard values of the Synesthesia Battery.
However, synesthetic experiences are kind of volatile. And even though theses synesthesia tests find consense in the scientific community, they have their upsides and downsides.
We will go into this advantages and disadvantages a little bit later. For now, let’s summarize:
Summary: How does the Synesthesia Test work?
Test Re-Test, Stroop Task, and Color Diversity.
- The users choose the colors for several letters, numbers, weekdays and months.
- Repeat the query. If the participants chose similar colors, it is considered synesthesia
- Then participants do the reaction test. If they are fast and correct in deciding if the displayed letters are in their color, it is typical synesthesia.
- Afterward, we calculate the color diversity.
Download the Synesthesia Tests as an App
All the functionalities are available. Download it now from the Play Store.
Or do you want to start a synesthesia test right now?
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Pros and Cons of those synesthesia test
We have seen that synesthesia tests are valuable tools for getting insights into the synesthetic abilities.
However, there are some advantages and disadvantages of those synesthesia tests.
The Pros of Consistency Tests
A valuable tool to start the synesthetic journey
In general, the big pro is that is a valuable tool for somebody to get started on their synesthetic journey. By being “forced” to decide on a color of items such as a number, the participants start to think about it.
And it is also a help to get an evaluation. Even though those evaluation or diagnoses have their limits, they have a value.
Do not get discouraged by the test evaluation.
Important is, those evaluations should encourage you to explore your synesthetic abilities. The goal is not to discourage anybody.
Let’s say; you have a low score on weekdays -> Color synesthesia. This evaluation does not mean that you do not have other types of synesthesia.
Whatever the outcome is, keep exploring your senses.
Scientifically approved method
With such consistency test, we can discriminate more or less successfully synesthetes from controls.
Science has evaluated the consistency tests, and it seems to be reliable.
It allows testing for some of the most common types of synesthesia, such as Grapheme-Color Synesthesia.
Easy to apply
The consistency tests are easy to use. They are either done online, but you could do it just with a piece of paper.
The Cons of the Synesthesia Tests:
Does not work for all types of synesthesia
This type of consistency test is only applicable for certain types of synesthesias.
We can use a color picker for certain types of synesthesias, such as Letter – Color Synesthesia. But there are other types.
For example, it would be hard to test for a type of synesthesia that evokes smells for seeing color. Different to a color picker where you can choose from millions of colors, you cannot do (yet) that for smells.
Not all synesthetes show consistency
Even though it is a synesthesia dogma that the synesthetic colors are consistent, there are voices that claim that this may not be necessarily true for all synesthetes. Julia Simner calls it a possible self-fulfilling prophecy.
If we define synesthetes as people that perceive colors of letters consistently only people that are consistent with colors are synesthetes.
So maybe we need to open for the possibility, that the colors of letters may change over time.
How much consistency is consistent enough? Where to draw the line?
If you have 100 points, you are a synesthete, if you have 101 points than not.
Sound weird, right?
Such a threshold does probably not reflect the true nature of synesthesia. So it is difficult to say, how much consistency is consistent enough.
There is not a sharp line separating synesthetes and non-synesthetes.
The standard procedure was like following: let some aware synesthetes and controls do such a synesthesia test.
According to the scores of the synesthetes and the controls, the researchers have drawn a line. Such a threshold in the form of a sharp line may not be appropriate.
Unaware synesthetes may not perform the same as aware synesthetes
It may also be, that unaware synesthete may not perform so well. Some people are not aware of the color of their numbers.
So if they start a synesthesia test, they may score less than synesthetes that have an increased synesthetic awareness.
About finding the balance between “False positive and false negatives.”
What does this mean?
False positives are non-synesthetes that wrongly are classified as synesthetes.
False negatives are synesthetes falsely classified as non-synesthetes.
So there needs to be a balance between these two. And this is where we struggle.
If we set the threshold too high, synesthetes may be classified as non-synesthetes.
If the threshold is too low, then non-synesthetes may be classified as synesthetes.
Such differentiated test results are crucial to avoid that in studies the synesthetes and non-synesthetes get mixed up. If you are interested in learning more, read our “paper.”
How we address these issues in our evaluation
According to our experience, for some people, it is just hard to give a final statement. So we include in our evaluation an “unclear range.”
If somebody scored within the “unclear range” we state we cannot make a statement about potential synesthesia. In this way, we try to avoid wrong classifications.
What is the prevalence of synesthesia? We do not know!
Such uncertainties in test evaluations is a reason why we do not have precise numbers on how prevalent synesthesia is.
How common is synesthesia? Estimations and studies vary widely. And it also depends on the type of synesthesia and what kind of method it is used.
One the one hand because it is challenging to diagnose synesthesia.
On the other hand, there are many types of synesthesia, which we cannot easily test.
If you want to learn more about the challenges of synesthesia tests and why it is difficult to name the prevalence of synesthesia, then check out our article about the “prevalence of synesthesia.”
If you want to check out your synesthesia, try our test series.
7 Synesthesia Tests
Visual Synesthesia Test
The visual synesthesia test is another variety of a test. There are some disputes if this method serves as a fully reliable in diagnosing synesthesia. However, it is fun.
Let’s try it!
You will see a picture with 5s.
Find the 2s as quickly as possible.
Are you ready for it? Scroll down!
Where are the 2s?
Scroll for the solution.
You found it. Some scientists claim that synesthetes are faster in seeing it. These images are from Ramachandran and Hubbard, 2001.
Never get discouraged by such test
However the outcome of such tests, it is more important that you are curious about your senses and your perceptions in general.
Of course, it is helpful if you identify as a synesthete. But it is also not always necessary that you put labels. If you are not sure if you have synesthesia or not, do not mind.
Synesthesia is about your experiences and not about scores and outcomes of any tests.
“If you hope to experience Synesthesia, learn to meditate.”
Meditation cultivates synesthesia. In the Sensorium, you find over 150 exercises, which engage all your senses. These mindful and synesthetic activities support you in discovering and experiencing synesthesia in your daily life.
Take 10 minutes and start now for free!
Or visit our test series.
Free Synesthesia Tests