Precision of synesthetic color matching resembles that for recollected colors rather than physical colors

Derek H. Arnold*, Signy V. Wegener, Francesca Brown, Jason B. Mattingley

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

12 Citations (Scopus)


Grapheme-color synesthesia is an atypical condition in which individuals experience sensations of color when reading printed graphemes such as letters and digits. For some grapheme-color synesthetes, seeing a printed grapheme triggers a sensation of color, but hearing the name of a grapheme does not. This dissociation allowed us to compare the precision with which synesthetes are able to match their color experiences triggered by visible graphemes, with the precision of their matches for recalled colors based on the same graphemes spoken aloud. In six synesthetes, color matching for printed graphemes was equally variable relative to recalled experiences. In a control experiment, synesthetes and age-matched controls either matched the color of a circular patch while it was visible on a screen, or they judged its color from memory after it had disappeared. Both synesthetes and controls were more variable when matching from memory, and the variance of synesthetes' recalled color judgments matched that associated with their synesthetic judgments for visible graphemes in the first experiment. Results suggest that synesthetic experiences of color triggered by achromatic graphemes are analogous to recollections of color.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1078-1084
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • color perception
  • grapheme-color synesthesia
  • synesthesia

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