Taking the Synesthesia Battery

Before I get started, I want to thank ndsenseandsex for mentioning The Synesthesia Battery on Tumblr and inspiring this week’s Take a Test Tuesday post.

Even more importantly, I need to preface this by saying that I don’t have synesthesia. The background information for this test is based strictly on research and will probably be quite short. I know there are regular readers who are synesthetes. Perhaps they’ll provide us with some firsthand accounts of their experiences. Finally, if I’ve gotten anything here wrong, please tell me and I’ll edit as needed.

Okay, on with the test . . .

Synesthesia is a condition where one sense is automatically and involuntarily triggered by input to a different sensory channel. For example, watching a video of moving dots triggers an auditory sensory response or smelling a particular scent evokes a visual response, such a as a specific color.

There are a couple of key characteristics of synesthesia that differentiate it from simple sensory associations. Synesthesia “concurrents”–the atypical sensory responses that accompanies the typical sensory responses–are:

  • involuntary
  • consistent
  • automatic

This means that a certain type of sensory input always triggers the exact same concurrent response, whether you are consciously expecting it or not, and that’s been the case for as long as you’ve been a synesthete (usually since birth, except occasionally in the case of head injuries or drug-induced neurological changes).

There are many different types of synesthesia. Some people experience only one type of synesthesia and others experience multiple types. Some of the more common forms include:

  • numbers or letters are associated with colors
  • people (or the scents of individuals) are associated with colors
  • visual movement patterns are associated with sounds
  • sounds are associated with colors or other visuals
  • visual sights (other than food) are associated with tastes
  • pain is associated with colors

Synesthesia isn’t an autism trait, but anecdotally, there seems to be a high rate of synesthetes among people on the spectrum. Like autism, it also tends to run in families.

Taking the Synesthesia Battery

The test website has two components: a short pretest you can take to screen for synesthesia and a longer battery that tests for various forms of synesthesia. To take the test, start here. The 7-question screening pretest is optional. If you have no idea whether you might have synesthesia, it’s a quick way to get a better idea.

If you experience synesthesia and want to take the more comprehensive Synesthesia Battery, you’ll be asked to register by giving an email address. The site says that results will be anonymously added to a research database and  that emails are kept private and never shared.

If you don’t want to register and take the Battery but are curious about what it consists of, there is a demo page with some screen shots and demo versions of the various parts of the test.

After registering and consenting to be part of the study, you’re asked to provide some demographic information. On the same page, you’ll be presented with a list of various types of synesthesia, with short descriptions of each, and asked to indicate which ones you experience. Based on which types of synesthesia you report experiencing, you’ll be served up a series of short tests.

There are both interactive and question/answer tests. Each of the interactive tests lasts about 10 minutes. The interactive  tests present a number of trials in which you’re asked to identify the concurrent for an item that is presented. For example, what color does M evoke or what color is this musical note associated with. The same “input” is repeated multiple times, testing how consistent your concurrents are.

The length of your test will depend on the number of tests that you’re given. You can stop at any time and come back to finish later by using the account you created when registering.

The Results

I didn’t take any complete any tests because I don’t experience synesthesia and didn’t want to contribute useless data to the study. I’m looking forward to hearing about any results that you all want to share with us.

There are samples of a synesthete’s results page and a non-synesthete’s results page that you can take a look at to see how they compare.

The Bottom Line

There are quite a few synesthesia questionnaires available online, but the interactivity of this test adds a measure of objectivity that is hard to achieve with multiple choice questions alone. Obviously it’s impossible to test for certain kinds of synesthesia online, since our computers can’t produce scents or replicate all of the possible forms of sensory input that trigger certain kinds of synesthesia, but this test is similar to the ones used to test for synesthesia in clinical settings.


63 thoughts on “Taking the Synesthesia Battery”

  1. I am very excited about this! There are three of us in our home who experience this, and all three of us are female Aspies (myself and my daughters). The male Aspie does not, to the best of our knowledge. My mother also experiences this, another female Aspie. My girls are more impacted by both their Aspergers and their synesthesia. My oldest daughter experiences all sorts of crossed sensory experiences. The girls also both have Sensory Processing Disorder. I find all of this totally fascinating, and I would love to see scans of their brains, much like Temple Grandin shares at her presentations. There is some fascinating stuff going on in those brains!

  2. I am one of three sisters who are all synesthetes, of the colors for letters and numbers variety. I also experience flashes of color for sounds and sensations (that I know of – it all feels so normal to me sometimes it takes a while for me to realize that I am having a sensory response that others do not!). As a mom to a child with Autism, I love how they are starting to look at this, along with other things, to get a better idea of how our brains work. I agree with Lisa, fascinating!

  3. This is interesting to me, is it the same or different then seeing “auras” around people…i know that Ido describes people as having colors that tell him whether they are good people or bad people to work with him. My youngests dad also says he sees auras around people that change colors depending on their internal mood. He is not dx with anything but after living with him several years i think he is undiagnosed something lol just not sure what.

      1. I’ve heard an explanation of “seeing auras” as a form of synesthesia where perceived emotional states correspond to colors. I believe your understanding is correct: the sensations connected with particular stimuli are consistent and repeatable. That’s certainly the case for me.

        1. Oh, so a color-emotion association rather than a color-person association. That makes sense. My daughter has a color-person association, which I didn’t know about until very recently. I guess she just thought everyone had it until it came up in conversation.

  4. Interesting! I’ve always associated months with colors and knew it was a form of synesthesia. I didn’t know that when I hear the sound of a word and get a motion visual/touch sensation that it was synesthesia too. Thanks for all the tests you post; I always seem to learn something about myself or others from them 🙂

    1. A friend of mine gets a consistent tactile feeling from words. Another paints visual representations of songs, based on their combined colour and motion synesthesia.

      The closest I get to anything synesthesia like is the strong spacial component to my long term memory, which very few people seem to be able to relate to when I explain it to them. It’s not at all sensory-triggered though, definitely something else, but a mixing up of one brain function for another.

  5. I’ve always associated particular colors with letters. Some associations are stronger than others such as red for A, blue for M, green for T and black for Z. I also have some association of color and shape with sounds and flavors. My score on the Color Picker (letters only) as 1.15 which puts me outside the threshold for synesthesia (I think this is because my color association is weak for some letters). I scored 84.62% on the Speed-Congruency Test (I know I hit the wrong button a few times) which is again just outside the threshold. (I wrote a post, Letters Have Color, back in 2011.)

    My VVIQ-2 score of 4.21875 was in line with my expectations given my facility with visualization. I dropped points on this because I have difficulty picturing people in scenes.

    Finally, my PA score was -2.1666666666667 which classes me as an Associator. No surprise there either.

    1. A few years ago, just for fun, I had my girls sit down with crayons and asked them to write the alphabet the way they see it. Astonishing! My favorite response from my youngest, only in kindergarten at the time, was regarding a particular letter. She said, ” Mommy, I can’t make the letter P.” I asked why. She said, ” That color isn’t in the crayon box. It hasn’t been invented yet.” It took my breath away. My oldest also sees sound…from her descriptions, I suspect that there are people who would pay good money to see what she does!! Can you imagine her designing the light display for a rock concert?!

    2. Thank you for sharing your results in detail. Sadly, I have no idea what they mean. :-/ I was tempted to take the test just to get some results but didn’t want to mess up the research data.

      1. I forgot to mention that there was a questionnaire after the tests where in addition to personal details it asked about particular diagnoses including depression, ADHD and autism.

        As for interpreting the results, the letter table in mine mostly looked like the sample synesthete’s results you linked except for a few letters (the ones where I don’t have a strong color association) which resembled the non-synesthete sample. I interpreted my results lying close outside their thresholds as indicating synesthesia with letter-color association for a subset of the alphabet. Interestingly I do not have any color association with lower-case letters or numbers.

        My other synesthetic sensations involve associating color with taste (so, for example, I have described certain foods as tasting green or blue) as well as color-sound (a single high piano note is a bright yellow-white flash that fades to a point where the intensity correlates with the volume).

          1. For the most part they’re just something I’m so used to that I don’t notice them (perhaps like seeing the color in your mind’s eye when you read the word “blue”). I do notice when I see colored lettering if the colors are “wrong”. That distracts me and makes me feel slightly uneasy, a bit like hearing a wrong note when listening to a song.

            1. Interesting. I checked out your post that you linked to and noticed that your alphabet has sort of a rainbow hue to it, which surprised me. I have no idea how I was expecting the individual colors of the letters to relate to each other, but I guess it wasn’t in such a lovely overall pattern.

              1. I believe it is very unusual for the colors to run in a sequence as they do for me. For most synesthetes there is no such relationship to alphabetical order and the colors do not form a pattern.

                I was just thinking about the colors and shapes I associate with sounds while listening to music: I suspect there is a visual component to my musical preferences. Music that conjures pleasing visual sensations is more enjoyable.

    3. same thing happened with me i hit the wrong button a lot of times still i got the score as 1.03 and 1 . what should i think about that ? also i have not studied music theory so some tests were pretty damn frustrating. also i didnt even get a chance to do the grapheme colour test for numbers and letters which is actually what i experience the most accurately ! instead i got some chinese letter test. what do you think went wrong ? i just dont know what to think.

  6. I am curious on the pretest it asks “Do certain words trigger a taste in your mouth? Example: Does the name ‘Derek’ taste like earwax? ” Ear wax? I do not have synesthesia in any shape or form so can anyone enlighten me regarding this question. Thanks

    1. I was actually wondering how anyone knows what ear wax tastes like . . .

      I think they’re using such an unusual combination of word/taste to avoid people saying things like “oh, yes, when I see the word cinnamon I can taste cinnamon in my mouth” which isn’t synesthesia. It’s just a common sensory association that we have with food-related or other sensory-based words.

      1. There might be a good reason for asking that specific question about the taste of earwax.
        The six examples of synesthesia in musings’ text all have one element of vision. There is, at least for me, no element of vision in the taste of earwax.
        The English language, like my own language, has five different verbs for hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting, feeling. My partner’s language, the commonly spoken version, has a word for seeing and uses a word equivalent to ‘feeling’ for the other four senses, the context providing for the exact meaning.
        I vividly remember a situation where I described, in the presence of our first child fluent in both our languages, to my partner in his language that the shoes I was wearing were too noisy. My partner felt compelled to explain to our first child that I had meant that the shoes were too vividly coloured. First child had understood perfectly fine what I was talking about and I knew that.
        I am not saying that any of us is synesthetic, but Alex already hinted at the idea that there might be a kind of continuum. I’d be curious to know as that would, in my eyes, nicely fit in with the bottom-up ideas and sensory diversity.

  7. I don’t think I’m going to do the tests as I don’t see how an online test could address what I experience, but I regularly have trippy visuals to accompany any intense physical sensations. It’s difficult to ascertain weather the visuals are always the same, as the quality/type of sensation is so seldom the same, but I suppose it may be a mild form of synesthesia.

    1. That would definitely be a hard one to replicate online! 🙂 Quite a few of the associations on the list looked hard to replicate in a virtual test setting, which is probably why the interactive tests are limited to visual and audio associations.

  8. I’m not interested enough in the topic to take the test and I don’t think I have Synesthesia anyway, but I really like your article… Neat, concise, to the point, useful. And thanks for the clear definition of Synesthesia, that’s how I can see that I don’t have it. What I have is an often somewhat hyperactive flow of sensory associations – automatic or semi-automatic (~ something I can switch on), but not consistent and not involuntary – in fact voluntary/involuntary seems sort of an irrelevant concept in this case, since it isn’t something I am trying to stop or prevent. For example I often imagine intonation visually when I sing, or listen to a radio host talking, or to help myself understand what’s being said in a phone conversation. I also often imagine visual or auditory or tactile cues such as lines (visual), rhythms and sounds (auditory) or specific tactile sensations when I drive in traffic. It is not an involuntary, consistent, instinctive sensory cross-sensory sync-phenomenon, it is just a way to help myself with sensory processing, an automatic strategy, a flow … perhaps more like a form of stimming, It is calming and helps me to coordinate myself with the surroundings, “keep the rhythm”, and highlight relevant details that I need to focus on and act on. A kind of mind-extension that enhances my abilities (or reduces disabilities). It it a very positive self-help function that has more or less evolved by itself, sometimes inspired by gadgets I’ve used or seen (like a Navigator). It is sensory-based and imagination-based, and is not Synesthesia.

    1. Actually, now I came up with a better description: a sensory self-language; a translation of the surroundings into sensations that are easier to relate with and organise into a more orderly, filtered environment, and which highlights the relevant details to be monitored and/or potentially acted on.

      1. a sensory self-language

        I love this description. You really need to write a post about this because it’s so fascinating. It definitely sounds different from synesthesia and like something that could be useful to others as a self-help tool. I’ll just keep pestering you, so feel free to ignore me as needed. 🙂

        I have a somewhat similar sensory language for writing–words have very specific shapes for me and I can often tell when a piece of writing is “good” or complete (and alternately terrible) by the shape of it in my mind.

        1. Thank you very much for your encouragement:-) I want to write about that, I have been postponing it for a long while and are also postponing other writing projects that I really, really want to complete… very frustrating.

          Thanks for describing your experience with writing…

          I’m wondering if “sensory self-languages” are actually quite common and normal anyway, but perhaps rarely mentioned because people don’t think to verbalise their own internal everyday communication & mental support functions.

          1. Perhaps they are common. I’m curious to see the response when you write about it. There may be a lack of reason/opportunities to talk about such things and/or people may think that it’s “weird” and so keep quiet about it. 🙂

  9. I have several types of synaesthesia, but the test doesn’t recognize any of them because they’re less common. One type I have (personality/emotion –> smell) is so rare that I have only stumbled across two other people in my entire life who also have it.

    1. I have to tell you that my daughter has this phenomenon as well. One day, when we were walking into a room, she said, “This smells like Minecraft.” Since Minecraft is a computer game, ad it has no actual smell, I asked what she meant. She told me how she feels during Minecraft produces a specific smell. As we were walking into the room, her feeling (which must have been the same that she experiences during Minecraft, was the same). It was the first time I realized how far reaching her synesthesia actually was for her.

      1. I agree about the variety of types, I had no idea it was so widespread and varied. Very interesting to hear all these experiences. The closest I think I get is when I look at a piece of code or maths or some engineering and I think it is ‘elegant’. Something aesthetic about certain things which on the face of it, is perhaps not.
        I know, nothing like what synesthesia is, but just trying to understand and relate to it in some way to help me understand.

  10. Perhaps I should qualify my lack of understanding.
    To given an example: If someone says the colour blue I see the word first and then I have to imagine a board which is painted the colour blue. Or sometimes it works the other way around, for yellow I see the colour and then bananas.

    1. If you are intentionally imagining it, it sent synaesthesia. Synaesthesia is involuntary, automatic, present every time the stimulus occurs, and the same every time the same stimulus occurs.

  11. The first part of letter/number test took a long time. It was hard to adjust exactly and frustrating because it often seemed difficult to get the color just right with the sliders, so it didn’t look exactly right. When I saw my results at the end, the colors looked approximately right to me, but I could see from the comparison that I didn’t get them the same, partially due to frustration with the slider 😛
    It was disorienting and uncomfortable that they would show the next letter with the wrong color already associated with it, and then you would have to change it… It would have been nicer to show with white or black.
    In the second part, some of the colors didn’t look adjusted right anymore on the black background. Since I normally read black on white text, I wonder if i see them differently in white on black? Anyway, it was kind of jarring, but when I saw the table at the end with all my letters and numbers and things colored correctly and at normal size, it looked good.
    I also had a hard time adjusting because it sometimes seemed like I couldn’t get the colors intense enough, or maybe saturated enough, to look right.

    Also I think the test would be better if it used some lower case letters or a mix of upper and lower, my associations are probably stronger with mixed case or lower case because that’s normally how words are written, not in all caps. The color association is also much stronger with thin type than heavy black type like used in the test, because the black is coloring the letters. Much how when I read the title of the page “The Synesthesia Battery,” the red color of the heading is battling in my head with my color associations. Thin black lettering is much more comfortable because my color just overrides it easily. At the end, it had some questions about how you “see” the color association (e.g. is it on the paper or just in your head) which were difficult for me to answer. In that, I can tell if I’m looking at black text or colored text, it’s not like I think the text is actually colored. But at the same time I do ‘see’ the color when I read it, not on my head but with the letter. I thought the test would be more accurate if instead of showing a block black or light grey letter, and color box next to it, they let me adjust a “glow” of color behind a thin black letter until it looked right. However, of course, other people might see the association completely differently 😛 so maybe it wouldn’t help everybody.
    Took a long time trying to get those adjustments right and felt tired afterwards so I went to bed and did the rest of the tests later.

    I gave up on the sound/picture association one after the beginning. I could tell that I was hearing different sounds in the different pictures, but it was sort of like a high pitched staticky sound and I couldn’t associate it with the piano keys at all (I’m not musical and apparently am terrible at carrying a tune, but I can’t even hear that I’m not doing it right 😛 I do enjoy music a lot).

    The visualization part was fun, I don’t have much trouble visualizing anything except faces. I can “focus” on parts of them but assembling the face of someone I know into a whole without any reference is almost impossible (probably explaining my prosopagnosia).

    Something I only became aware of recently is smell associations, especially with memories, but I had also noticed recently that it seems to happen as part of a migraine prodrome as well (after driving a lot of people in the office crazy complaining about awful smells that, as it turned out, nobody else could smell :P). Unfortunately there’s not any way to test this sort of thing via computer yet 🙂

    1. Oh, it sounds like you got some different tests!

      I have very strong associations between scents and memories. Often a scent will, out of nowhere, evoke a very vivid childhood memory that I’d forgotten about for decades. Also, it’s common to have scents as mirgraine prodromes and often that kind of “fictional” scent is actually classified as an olfactory hallucination as well.

      1. Yes, the migraine ones I only caught on to recently, when I was researching some of the other weird prodromes I get. They’re usually unpleasant, too, unlike most of my memory scents. In terms of the memories, the funny thing is I usually notice it when it’s the other way… A memory will come to mind and suddenly I’ll smell a whiff of a scent associated with that memory, like it’s really there (even though logically I know, it’s not there, as there is no source for it). My mother said she is the same way 🙂

        1. You might be interested in reading Oliver Sacks’s book “Hallucinations”. I think there is a whole chapter on olfactory hallucinations and another on the link between hallucinations and migraines. I found it fascinating because I occasionally have auditory hallucinations when I’m really tired and had no idea how common they actually are.

          1. I actually did read that 😀 I also found it very interesting! I have read some of his other books too including the one on migraines that gave me some insight into its relationship with another health problem I have, and he also has some that delve into prosopagnosia (his later ones on that topic are from a better perspective, after he realized he has it himself!) His personal anecdotes are some of the most interesting for me 🙂

            1. I really enjoyed Hallucinations though a few times I had to put it down because the descriptions were freaking me out. I haven’t the migraines book but I have read a bunch of others (including the one with the unfortunate descriptions of the autistic boy who is an artist). I love learning about anything related to atypical neurology and always have.

              1. After having read a few of his books, I definitely noticed that his earlier books are, shall we say, somewhat less compassionate in their descriptions, for instance even his earlier descriptions of conditions he later found out he had. It seems to me that in his later books he was more understanding and a bit less clinical, perhaps due to age and experience, to me those are more enjoyable with I guess the perspective of time and his anecdotes about his own personal oddities :P.

  12. Oh, I found a post I did a while ago on my old blog, where I listed out the proper colors for everything, so I compared it to my results on the test 🙂 I can see now why I was frustrated with the slider thingy… it’s much easier to see the color, than to try to replicate it on the slider (just like, I cannot hear a note and then replicate it on the piano, though I can imagine the sound of it). Here’s my old associations, and they do appear to be unchanged: http://downwithlistlessness.blogspot.com/2008/03/true-colors.html

  13. I have movement-sound or even sensation-sound synesthesia. When I see a video that’s muted and someone is talking in it, I still hear random bubbling sounds. Once I thought I heard my finger move, and I had to wave my hands again just to make sure it wasn’t the air (it wasn’t). I watched a bird move and I could hear “da da da” like a metronome. I can even identify different levels of pain depending on what I hear when it happens. Localized pain is high pitched, but if the pain is spread out it’s lower pitched.

      1. One of my allistic friends told me she has that type. She first realized it as a child when she mentioned the sounds the birds hopping around on a tree were making and the grown-ups acted like she was nuts. Then she realized the sounds that moving things made were inside her and others couldn’t hear them.

      2. The sensation-sound isn’t very obvious; it’s more like dull white noise, so even if people did have it they probably wouldn’t notice it with all the different sounds going on around us. It’s interesting that in addition to my sound synesthesia, I’m also super sensitive to loud noises. Maybe there’s a connection?

        Our brains are weird! I can’t wait for more advances in neuroscience.

  14. I had a hard time with the tests–the buggers gave me a bomber of a headache! O___o Anyway, I’m not certain if I’m synesthesic or if what I experience wasn’t covered by the tests very well. I “hear” movement and sometimes see colour when something is moving, like tracers. The pisser is that the colours aren’t always the same for each type of movement. I hear colours and see sounds as colours, but their use of musical tones flummoxed me because I don’t really hear pure notes–I “hear” muddy ones that aren’t quite on pitch, or they have a kind of static in them. I did notice in my results that most sounds stayed within a certain range, though. High-pitched sounds tend to be in the yellows and chartreuse for me, “hard” sounds sit in the red part of the spectrum and deeper notes like tubas, snare-drums were ALWAYS a yellow-beige (go figure), kettledrums and bassoons live in the purples and blues. When I see something like a flashing sign, my mind makes a fizzy buzz that’s interesting to me, and I’ll “listen” for minutes at a time. If the pace changes, so does the “sound”.
    Yet, when I took their tests, I barely made it into their category of synesthesic (0.88 on the first, blew it terribly on the second–normal range–and 0.8-something again on the third and so on). I suspect that if the time it took for me to peg each tone were taken into account, then I’d not be counted as synesthesic at all–I often played each sound over and over to be certain of where it fell on the colour-picker. It seems chords screw me up–that’s where I blew the test. I “heard” the individual notes and I couldn’t keep the colours straight! Their movement tests also gave me a headache–an actual one. I’m still feeling it and I took the tests over an hour ago. :-p Anyway, the movement ones were where I was the most consistent by far. The little bars of black and white “read” as a certain range of tones, and their speed or direction came out EXACTLY the same each time. But that part of their widget is broken, I think, because there was no info given for the results, just an image of the black and white bars with treble-clefs in rows underneath. I don’t know what that means, if it’s a “result” at all.
    The projector and associator part of the test confused me. I don’t associate or hear colours for words, numbers or letters and so I wasn’t certain how to answer the questions. Maybe I should have given the answers as if they’d been about colours or sounds instead. That would changed things a LOT. I’d likely be an Associator by their criteriae: I don’t actually “see” or “hear” the colours and sounds outside my head–it’s all internal. 🙂
    Another oddity they don’t address is seeing or hearing patterns based on stuff one sees. I used to keep myself entertained for hours as a kid by tracing the outlines of objects and “listening” to their sounds. Or, I’d be studying the pattern on a blanket or some other item and I’d see the different relationships I could make with different tracings through the pattern (different ways to organize that pattern and the “rhythms” it made) and when I was doing that, I often “heard” sounds, usually soft, warm fuzzy ones that I found soothing and fun, so I’d do that one a lot. As I mentioned in the “about you” portion of the test, I wish I knew how to read or write musical notation, because I’d love to physically hear the weirdness I used to as a child. I don’t seem to be able to do that one as much anymore. Maybe it’s age?
    So there’s my experience with the battery. 🙂 I’m coloured all kinds of confused, wondering if I’m actually a synesthesic at all, or just REALLY weird. :-p I was perked up to read the comment from the other person with prosopagnosia–I can’t read faces worth beans. LOL I remember people by the way they smell, their movements or their clothing and tones of voice. I ALWAYS recognize voices, though. And the comment from the person who heard movement really made me smile, too. I’ve never met anyone else who did that with silenced video or “listened” to the movements of animals…
    By the way, I’ve never been diagnosed with Asperger’s, but based on my reading and comparing it to my early life, with SO many similarities, I really wonder if maybe someone should have. It might have made things easier for me…
    Cheers! And sorry for the wall o’ text! ❤

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