Personality – Color, Texture Perception
Synesthesia (See also: Synaesthesia research via the University of Sussex) is the production of a sense impression relating to one sense or part of the body by stimulation of another sense or part of the body.(according to Google) Put simply, synesthesia is when one sense blends with another to create an association that would not otherwise be perceived as such. For example, some synesthetes see colors when they hear sounds. Some perceive certain colors as having a texture.
In my case, I recognize certain personalities by their colors and textures. These colors and textures combined with the personality that induced them elicit an emotional response, sometimes even going so far as to remind me of a taste or scent. The only sensory perception blend I’ve never noticed having experienced is any of those having to do with sound. For more information from the perspective of a fellow synesthete, read Rachael Spellman’s Writing Reality article: Using Synaesthetic Imagery, and look around her website for more writing advice and a truly unique reading experience.
To give you an example of how I perceive personalities, when I think of my friend Rachael (Celenegaia)(@Raishimi), I recognize her as whiskey. This isn’t what it sounds like. Or, maybe it is a little. Let me explain. Her personality is a dark but clear brown with a rich amber core, like honey within whiskey. She’s a liquid with its own light source which is constantly refracted into pin points of light that sparkle and reflect on my own personality, which is like a mirror. She’s smooth, but that sprinkling of bright lights lends an appearance of sharp edges like shards of glass glittering in sunlight. I associate her personality with whiskey because of its color and texture, which remind me of the drink poured over ice. Note that I don’t perceive her personality as a smell and taste specifically. I believe this association is likely a secondary effect. The emotional response this perception elicits within me is that of the warm comfort of a steadfast friend that I visit with occasionally. Though I might be hard pressed to describe with such detail and clarity her face, hair, voice or any other physical attributes, I can go on for days about her personality.
Another personality that I have a great deal more experience with is a rough, brackish green one. Granted, the word brackish is defined as slightly salty (as in water), but certain words tend to contain certain attributes for me. This may also have something to do with synesthesia. Perhaps word – color, texture syn? In any event, I know this person, who will remain anonymous, as having a rough, brackish green personality. That’s not to say he tastes or smells salty. What I mean by brackish is dark-flecked. His personality is that of cement thickly painted green with a spattering of dark flecks in varying hues of grays to black. To those who don’t know him, he has an intimidating appearance. Though I’m not one to be intimidated by any man, I will say this; His face has a foreboding glare in the place of a non-expressive resting state. One might think such a person would elicit a negative emotional response, however, the opposite is true. He is stubborn, brutally honest, and does not put up with anyone’s bullshit. These are all traits I can understand in a person I get along well with.
Before I go any further, it’s important to note that these AUTOMATIC attributes NEVER vary. Synesthesia, once thought a rare phenomenon, is believed to be common, though to a limited extent in the general population. The blending of sensory perception in most people is so subtle that most go their entire lives without realizing its happening. If you’re wondering whether you have synesthesia, the main thing to remember is that when you make an AUTOMATIC association, it NEVER changes. You don’t decide what color each number represents, for example. The association is beyond your control. You don’t choose attribution, and the attribution does not change. For example, if the letter A has the female gender one day, but the male the next, that’s not synesthesia.
Back to the topic of personalities to color,texture synesthesia… Not every person I know causes this response in me. Typically, only when I’ve grown closer to a person do I begin to see these attributes, similar to a picture slowly coming into focus. When I first meet a person, their personality is vague. I don’t typically associate that person with any color, texture, smell, or taste unless they have a particularly strong personality.
I worked with a cashier briefly, years ago, who was a garish, jagged plum-red. Her personality was like a mountain-face smeared with bright plum-red lipstick. I don’t remember her name, or much about her physically, but I’ll never forget her personality. And you might think that this personality would be off-putting, but it wasn’t. I found her to be exciting, if sometimes worrisome. While I don’t necessarily associate her with a taste or smell, note that the color I perceive her personality to be includes the word “plum”, which has its own association with a scent and taste. Again, these associations are not something you choose, but automatic. Synesthetic connections are neurological and entirely subconscious. The only thing I can control is how closely I choose to examine the workings of my mind, and what I do with what I learn.
Personality – Color, Texture Synesthesia and Personification
How does personality – color, texture synesthesia in reverse affect my writing, specifically when it comes to personification? Here, I’m going to borrow Rachael’s personality and attempt to deconstruct my own writing to better understand my own personal style. I wrote the following story nearly a year ago, as an assignment for the writing workshop I was attending at the time. I’d like to take another look at it, with a fresh perspective and taking synesthesia (specifically color,texture to personality) into consideration.
The personality of the narrator of this piece, which happens to be a plastic bag, is one of detached, irreverent superiority. The plastic bag goes out of its way to tell you it is not malicious or cruel, right off the bat. Kind of makes you wonder just how true that is. And if you picked up on that – and to “get” this piece, you kind of had to – then you’d see the plastic bag is gloating about knowing a truth that simple-minded humans would never possibly be able to figure out. The plastic bag is so sure that other humans will find this one, dead, and go with the first assumption that pops to mind, proving them inferior. This plastic bag feels no remorse or pity for the death of the human, only a sort of distant and morbid amusement at her stupidity. There’s an implied sense of superior amusement at the ignorance of the human race in general.
When I wrote this piece, I didn’t know what personification was, and it would be months yet before I would hear the term synesthesia. I can’t help but wonder how color and texture played a part in the personality of the narrator as perceived by me. The prompt for this piece was a plastic bag. That’s it. No other constraints. My assignment was to take a plastic bag and write a story. Does crinkly, clearish-white, plastic equal a detached, irreverent personality with a superiority complex? Apparently, it does for me.
Now that this door has been opened, I do believe I’ll pay more attention to the colors and textures and personalities in my writing so that I can (hopefully) use this information to my benefit. As a challenge, I may purposefully write a character description sheet that tells of that toon’s personality, and attempt to learn that character’s color and texture, and then proceed to write. If you’d like to take up the challenge as well, just for shits and giggles, please feel free to share the results with me. I’d love to see how a non-synesthete, or even another synesthete, might find this useful. If you’ve managed to make it here, to the end of the longest post I’ve ever written, Kudos to you! Hasta luego, mis amigos!
BONUS!!! I wrote another fun and (hopefully) helpful writing article for ProseBeforeHoHos, The Manly Art of World Building (Two Things to Remember). Make sure you swing by and show those Bros some love!