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Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience

November 2005, Vol. 17, No. 11, Pages 1766-1773
(doi: 10.1162/089892905774589181)
© 2005 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
When Blue is Larger than Red: Colors Influence Numerical Cognition in Synesthesia
Article PDF (265.8 KB)

In synesthesia, certain stimuli (“inducers”) may give rise to perceptual experience in additional modalities not normally associated with them (“concurrent”). For example, color-grapheme synesthetes automatically perceive achromatic numbers as colored (e.g., 7 is turquoise). Although synesthetes know when a given color matches the one evoked by a certain number, colors do not automatically give rise to any sort of number experience. The behavioral consequences of synesthesia have been documented using Stroop-like paradigms, usually using color judgments. Owing to the unidirectional nature of the synesthetic experience, little has been done to obtain performance measures that could indicate whether bidirectional cross-activation occurs in synesthesia. Here it is shown that colors do implicitly evoke numerical magnitudes in color-grapheme synesthetes, but not in nonsynesthetic participants. It is proposed that bidirectional co-activation of brain areas is responsible for the links between color and magnitude processing in color-grapheme synesthesia and that unidirectional models of synesthesia might have to be revised.