Friday, 16 January 2009

People & Colours

This particular post could make me sound like a complete nutjob but I'm going to go ahead and write it anyway.

Ever since I was a child I've had this thing where I associate different people with different colours. I don't mean that I think of a person and then think of their favourite colour. I mean that when I think of someone I know I get a particular colour flash into my mind. My Mum always found this fascinating and whenever I met someone new she'd ask me what colour I related them to.

I was finding it hard to get to sleep the other night and when that happens I think about beads and possible designs for them. I tried doing that for half an hour but I was still wide awake so I put my iPod on and had yet another listen to the most recent Ricky Gervais audiobook and there's a little bit in there about Karl Pilkington's theories on how his brain works. After that I started thinking about how I think about things. It's very difficult to explain but I noticed that when I think about a particular person the first thing I 'see', for the tiniest fraction of a second, is their name written in a certain colour. For example, when I think of Chris I see his name written in a shade of sky blue. I then tried thinking about lots of different people and seeing what colour their names were. I must have worn my brain out because I did eventually drift off to sleep!

(I've just read this back to myself and I do indeed sound a little bit mad but I'm going to carry on regardless ..... )

When I woke up I was still intrigued about the colour thing so I decided to send texts to various friends and family and I asked them 'If you were a colour, what colour would you be?'.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that most people's answers matched the color that I associate them with in my (slightly crazy) mind. There were a couple that threw me. My youngest sister Emily said she would be red whereas I've always 'seen' her as turquoise. And my niece Robyn totally shocked me when she said that she would be silver. I love the randomness of that child! She is a bright bubblegum pink in my mind.

Emily rang me up to find out what the heck I was asking such an odd question for and when I told her she said that she does the whole people-and-colour-association thing too! And even stranger than that, we associate the same people with the same colours. For example, we both associate Mum with a bright golden yellow, our sister Sally with green and Robyn with bubblegum pink.

Thoroughly intrigued by this I did a spot of internet research last night and I discovered that I may well have an actual proper thing that exists. It's called Chromatic-Lexical Synesthesia. It's mainly the names of personally familiar people that I get this with but occasionally other words will trigger a colour response. I also see various letters and numbers as having colours. Not all, but some. Apparently, research shows that there is a link between synesthesia and creativity. I was also really interested to read that a lot of synesthetes have trouble with sense of direction and difficulties with numbers and mathematics. Well, I have zero sense of direction and I was useless at maths at school. I'm also terrible at remembering dates and phone numbers.

So there you go. Nutjob or synesthete? I'll take the latter, thanks - it sounds better!

21 Comments

JoyFunnell said...

That is all very interesting Laura, and I have read about that before and always thought um... why can't I think like that. Your last paragraph probably explains it all to me. My Dad is very good at maths and as kids we would try to beat him adding up lists of figures (he always beat us even when he was reading them upside down!). I grew up loving numbers and I also have a good sense of direction so maybe there is something in all that. Perhaps it is in the genes.

Only problem is I am not sure what that says about my creativity!! (or lack of it)

So I would love to know what colour I am to you 'cos I know what I think of as me :-)

Mel P said...

I do the people association with smell. I actually smell the relevant smell when I think of the peron. Brian , my Hubby asked if maybe I could have some sort of brain disorder when we were first dating (this is after I told him he reminded me of the smell of 70% cocoa chocolate) Does that make me a complete Loon? I don't think you are odd Laura, it is everyone else:)

Laura said...

Course I don't think you're a loon, Mel. I think that the smell thing is really fascinating. Maybe there's a name for it?

Joy - it is interesting, isn't it? And you are a very creative person. You're just a lucky creative person who doesn't get lost at the drop of a hat! ;o)

In answer to your question, I see you as a sunny yellow. What colour do you think you are?

Caroline B said...

Interesting Laura - I've always had this with things like days of the week (Wednesday is orange, Thursday is a rich violetty blue, Friday is red...) and numbers, but can't say it's happened with people. I also suffer from total lack of direction although I'm OK at maths (as long as it's not algebra or logorithms - what's that all about?)
Do me now - what colour am I!!
C.

Laura said...

Could be the same sort of thing, Caroline. I'm not an expert but it sounds like a definite form of it.

Ha! Well, it's quite tricky because I've never actually met you but I think of you as a purple or a violet.

Caroline B said...

Haha, spot on!!!!My favourite colour is violet!

Laura said...

Well, there you go! :o)

JoyFunnell said...

You know Laura I was thinking of course I am blue, but then I thought... hang on, that is because blue is my favourite colour (as a young kid I had a favourite blue blanket that I was inseparable from so it probably stems from there) and that is not the same thing at all "being" a colour. The more I think about it the more I have no idea what colour "I am" as it is a concept my brain does not work with. I really like the idea of a sunny yellow though. That will do me :) So glad I was not a dull grey! Definitely not mad.

Janine- Cherished Trinkets said...

Ah Ha! Now I know what the random text was about! I did wonder! Was I the right colour?

I am slightly jealous that I do not have any of these quirky thoughts :(

Have you thought that maybe its an aura thingy Laura?

J xx

Laura said...

Yes, favourite colours and what colour you 'are' are different. A couple of people I asked didn't know what colour they'd be either. Glad you don't think I'm mad!

Laura said...

Janine - yes - I had you down as a candy pink or a lavender. Again, I've never met you in person (will rectify that soon) so it's tricky.

I don't know about the aura thing. I'll have to research this whole thing a bit further .....

Anonymous said...

This is really interesting. When I meet you, Laura, you can tell me what colour you think I am & I'll give some thought before then to what colour I think I am (as opposed to my favourite colour).
I think of people as colours when I'm giving them flowers (ie buy them the colour I think of them as) - wonder if that's to do with their personality? (eg yellow for a person with a sunny personality?).
Kay, So'ton

Laura said...

Should be interesting, Kay. :o)

And regarding your comment about Kathy's beads, mis-shapes are inevitable (I make them daily) but I promise you that you will leave your lesson with at least one even, round bead. That may not sound exciting but trust me, that is a feat in itself!

Tina said...

How interesting is this post...I must look into this more. Do you see me as a colour? I do the colour thing but in a different sort of way, it is more of a feeling sort of thing. Will have to try and think of a way to explain it better.xxxxxxx

Laura said...

It is indeed very tricky to put into words, Tina.

Yes - I associate you with a deep pinky orange colour. A bit like Swarovski Padparadscha. :o)

Ali P said...

Hey Laura, I've only just read your post - this is really fascinating - I think about colour all the time but not in the way you do. A long time back I did a psychology A-Level and all my experiments were about colour & personality and colour vision. It really fascinates me that the colours around you have a profound effect on mood (pale pink can calm people high on drugs apparently!)...
I wish I flipped into colour thinking when my mind is working overtime, instead for me I start counting like a mad woman ;)
There's a book I keep meaning to read 'Born on a Blue Day' by Daniel Tammet (got it on my Amazon list for a day when I have some spare pennies), he's got a rare form of Asperger's and can remember really long strings of numbers as he associates numbers with colours and textures... Isn't the mind a wonderful thing!
Ali
P.S. was thinking about you the other day as we were watchin Eastenders - how much longer can it be before Dannielle spills the beans to Ronnie?!?

Laura said...

Ali - That book sounds like it could be an interesting read. I shall add it to my Amazon wishlist.

As for Eastenders, I really thought that Danielle would tell Ronnie the other night. But I expect that it will happen in some dramatic fashion. Maybe something similar to the Kat/Zoe Slater 'I'm your Mum!' scenario a few years back?

Anonymous said...

Hi Laura,
Yes, you have synthesia. You're not mad, far from it. Funnily enough most children are born with this ability but they lose this ability as their brain "hardwires" itself. Find a very young child and ask them what colour Friday is - it'll probably make complete sense to them - There's loads of Synethesia variants - some poor people smell different things when they hear different words. It is closely related to certain Asperger types - the ones that can do impossible calculations in their heads do so because they "see" big numbers as complex shapes so mathematical function is purely a matter of imposing shapes on each other and reading off the resulting numbers. Easy peasy if you have this type of brain.
Anyway - congratulations, you're probably one in a million!

Laura said...

Thank you for your lovely comment. :o)

I find your point about children relating things to colours really quite amazing. That may explain why I was so enthralled when my four year old niece told me that she would be silver. None of the adults I asked picked a metallic colour.

Isn't the brain a wonderful thing?

Rowanberry said...

Laura, I also have Synthesesia! It was great to see the post :D I also have other forms, where I associate emotions etc with different days of the week, apply colours to such things and oh its all strange but I thought it was normal until a few months ago. There was a Radio 4 programme about it and I thought" oh that's me, is that not normal?". LOL! I thought everyone did it!
I also have another one where you "see" time.
Its meant to make us better artists! And no, we aren't nut jobs, just wired up in an interesting way!
But I am good with maths, so I differ on that!
Claire

Laura said...

Well it's nice to know that you know how I feel, Claire! It's so difficult to try and explain in words, isn't it?