- Similarly shaped letters evoke similar colors in grapheme-color synesthesia
- Volume | Issue number
- 49 | 5
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
- Psychology Research Institute (PsyRes)
Grapheme-color synesthesia is a neurological condition in which viewing numbers or letters (graphemes) results in the concurrent sensation of color. While the anatomical substrates underlying this experience are well understood, little research to date has investigated factors influencing the particular colors associated with particular graphemes or how synesthesia occurs developmentally. A recent suggestion of such an interaction has been proposed in the cascaded cross-tuning (CCT) model of synesthesia, which posits that in synesthetes connections between grapheme regions and color area V4 participate in a competitive activation process, with synesthetic colors arising during the component-stage of grapheme processing. This model more directly suggests that graphemes sharing similar component features (lines, curves, etc.) should accordingly activate more similar synesthetic colors. To test this proposal, we created and regressed synesthetic color-similarity matrices for each of 52 synesthetes against a letter-confusability matrix, an unbiased measure of visual similarity among graphemes. Results of synesthetes’ grapheme-color correspondences indeed revealed that more similarly shaped graphemes corresponded with more similar synesthetic colors, with stronger effects observed in individuals with more intense synesthetic experiences (projector synesthetes). These results support the CCT model of synesthesia, implicate early perceptual mechanisms as driving factors in the elicitation of synesthetic hues, and further highlight the relationship between conceptual and perceptual factors in this phenomenon.
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