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Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience

February 2009, Vol. 21, No. 2, Pages 246-258
(doi: 10.1162/jocn.2009.21048)
© 2008 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Grapheme–Color Synesthesia Influences Overt Visual Attention
Article PDF (279.45 KB)

For individuals with grapheme–color synesthesia, achromatic letters and digits elicit vivid perceptual experiences of color. We report two experiments that evaluate whether synesthesia influences overt visual attention. In these experiments, two grapheme–color synesthetes viewed colored letters while their eye movements were monitored. Letters were presented in colors that were either congruent or incongruent with the synesthetes' colors. Eye tracking analysis showed that synesthetes exhibited a color congruity bias—a propensity to fixate congruently colored letters more often and for longer durations than incongruently colored letters—in a naturalistic free-viewing task. In a more structured visual search task, this congruity bias caused synesthetes to rapidly fixate and identify congruently colored target letters, but led to problems in identifying incongruently colored target letters. The results are discussed in terms of their implications for perception in synesthesia.