Here's the test scientists use to tell if you have synesthesia


Wherever I see the color '4,' it glows orange in my mind's eye.


I still see it as black on a white page but I know, somewhere deep down, that it's really orange. It's the same way I know that 7 is dark purple or 8 is royal blue.

My synesthesia, as the condition is called, applies to months, too. Take September, for instance, a month that is wreathed (at least in my mind) in burnt sienna. December, the month I was born, is a deep, chilly hue of slate, and March is sparkling emerald.

Somewhere between 1 in 2,000 people see the world like me, or in some version of what I see. Other synesthetes taste words or see music as bursts of color.

While synesthesia remains largely a mystery to scientists, a new study published March 4 offers a glimpse into what's going on in the brains of those of us who have it. The researchers used a test, which we discovered is also available for free online, to evaluate a sample of random people.


A typical question on the test consists of looking at a number, letter, or month, and selecting the color it matches with.

It looks like this:

To confirm you're not just making it up, the test has you match each number and letter with its color 3 times, in random order. Most synesthetes are have a very particular color that they associate with each letter or number, right down to the exact shade and brightness. The tool lets you get pretty specific.

Then, you're shown a number or letter (in a random color) for a brief moment - and then asked to identify if it was the right color.


Here's what a typical synesthete's test results look like. A color is backgrounded in black (like the letter C below) if the person taking the test didn't associate it with a color:

A score below 1.0 is ranked as synesthetic, because it means you consistently matched each letter with a specific color. In other words, your choices weren't random. The precise color you picked each time is shown in each box along the row. The closer the match for a particular letter or color each time, the smaller the bar immediately to the right of that row.

By comparison, the test results of a non-synesthetic person might look like this:


Nearly each of the letters or numbers in each square are different colors, and as a result the bar to the right of each row is long. In other words, a non-synesthete is picking a color at random.

It sounds like a silly test, but there are so many numbers, letters, and color choices that even when non-synesthetes are asked to take the test using memory (meaning they're trying to fool it), they usually only score around 2.0.

Don't take my word for it - try it for yourself.

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