Exploring the benefit of synaesthetic colours: Testing for "pop-out" in individuals with grapheme-colour synaesthesia

Anina N. Rich, Karen Inge Karstoft

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    18 Citations (Scopus)


    In grapheme-colour synaesthesia, letters, numbers, and words elicit involuntary colour experiences. Recently, there has been much emphasis on individual differences and possible subcategories of synaesthetes with different underlying mechanisms. In particular, there are claims that for some, synaesthesia occurs prior to attention and awareness of the inducing stimulus. We first characterized our sample using two versions of the "Synaesthetic Congruency Task" to distinguish "projector" and "associator" synaesthetes who may differ in the extent to which their synaesthesia depends on attention and awareness. We then used a novel modification of the "Embedded Figures Task" that included a set-size manipulation to look for evidence of preattentive "pop-out" from synaesthetic colours, at both a group and an individual level. We replicate an advantage for synaesthetes over nonsynaesthetic controls on the Embedded Figures Task in accuracy, but find no support for pop-out of synaesthetic colours. We conclude that grapheme-colour synaesthetes are fundamentally similar in their visual processing to the general population, with the source of their unusual conscious colour experiences occurring late in the cognitive hierarchy.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)110-125
    Number of pages16
    JournalCognitive Neuropsychology
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2013


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