Number Form Synesthesia

Today as I was doing my morning sweep of news and social networks I ran across a post on Google+ where someone mentioned they had Synesthesia – a form of which allows them to hear colors.  That’s right, hear colors.

This caught my attention so I began reading about synesthesia on the wiki page linked above.  As I’m scrolling through the page, I run into:

Number line, courtesy Wikipedia

If you know me, in the past I may have mentioned that several years ago I learned that how I see numbers apparently isn’t typical.  I see them on a path – one that is and always has been the same.  What shocked me about the image above is that it’s nearly identical to how I see numbers. The circle from 1-12 (although mine tends to take a slight horseshoe-shape), the peaks and valleys in-between each decade, a repeat of the circle at 100-112, 200-212, etc.. The only real difference is that my path keeps rising up to the left (the 200s are higher than the 300s) and the circle/horseshoe thing with 1-12.

If I’m counting, I sort of zoom-in on the particular number I’m on (each number on the path is written in a space like a board game), with my point of view, or camera angle, changes based on where I’m at on the number path.

After further reading, I also found that not everyone has a path for the days of the week, the months of the year, or years in general.  Strange.

I’ve never had a way of naming or describing this, but now I do.  It’s called Number Form Synesthesia, and apparently I have it.

The brain is a fascinating thing.







6 responses to “Number Form Synesthesia”

  1. Roy Avatar

    I found out a couple of years ago that visualizing numbers, days of the week, months and years is not normal. I thought everyone saw them in space. I was talking to my sister about it, and she sees it the same way. Haven’t found anyone else that does. Apparently it runs in families. The great part about having it is that i never have to write down an appt. When I have something to do on a particular day, it literally looks different. Also I can just zoom in on that day and “see” the time that the appointment is. There does seem to be a time limit though. If I schedule something for more than a month or 2 away, I have to work a little harder to see it.


    1. EJ Avatar

      Thanks for stopping by, Roy.

      I’ve been intrigued about it ever since I learned this isn’t typical. I visualize the calendar as well, which I now know is why I have never really needed to rely on electronic calculators.

      Does your numberline closely follow the image(s) on wikipedia?


  2. Michelle Avatar

    Fascinating! I just stumbled upon this idea of synesthesia. I have always remembered more than the average person. My mother used to call it “turbo memory”. A lot of my memory seems to “hang” on a running calendar- more like a time line that is flat. It is not as concretely visual as the number line shown above, but I have always been able to “feel” what period of time an historic event has taken place.


  3. Cary Bazalgette Avatar

    I have just discovered this too! I never bothered to describe this to anyone because it always seemed inexpressible. Like yours and other commentators here, mine have gradients, but light and dark are also important and seem to be created by a looming shed-like structure (like a Victorian railway terminal) that casts a shadow over the numbers from 12 to 99. I also see the alphabet on a long slope that gets lighter towards the bottom. No colours – although Tuesday is purplish.


  4. George Kenyon Avatar
    George Kenyon

    Hey Eric!

    I was wondering if you’re perception of time is the same one you have for numbers. I am also curious as to the appointment thing. If you ‘zoom in’ on a point in time, how do you perceive the appointment?



  5. EJ Avatar

    Hi George, thanks for stopping by.

    Time has a spatial path like the number line to me, but it’s a different shape. I haven’t given it much thought, but it’s more like a mis-shapen circle. As I consider a certain time, time passing, or something like an appointment, that segment of the path illuminates or otherwise stands out from the rest. I don’t see the entire path/shape at once, just parts I’m referencing at any one time.

    Days of the week, months of the year, and other calendar dates follow their own paths too.

    Do you have similar perceptions?


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