Tag Archives: Synaesthesia and Food

Thoughts sometimes turn to food with synaesthesia

Whenever I see the colours chocolate brown and forest green together, in any context, that makes me think of the taste and mouth-feel of chocolate with mint brittle or mint cracknel, as exemplified by the Peppermint Crisp bar:


Whenever I see the colours forest green and white together, in any context, I think of Kool Mints which I believe were produced in those colours when I was a child. I can even get this effect through grapheme-colour synaesthesia triggered by numbers. For example, the street number of a house that I once lived in evokes the concept of Kool Mints.

Whenever is see one of those cute, rounded, new but retro-styled cars with perfect glossy paint in a brownish tint, it makes me think of flavoured rice-cream or some other flavoured milky desert in the applicable flavour for the colour, such as caramel ricecream, coffee cream desert, chocolate ricecream etc.


On the odd occasion when I’m near a helicopter and hear its engine at close range, or hear one operating under a load, that sound makes me think of the uniquely wonderful smell of a steak and onion pie.


Sounds delicious

Kwinana – banana

Fiona – Passiona

Duncan – pumpkin

Walcott – walnut

pastor – pasta

Kojonup – coconut

Jesus – cheeses

Marmion – marmalade

Ceduna – tuna

My lexical-gustatory synaesthesia:


Lexical-gustatory synaesthesia investigation as a form of psychotherapy?

I’m wondering why both of the words “morning” and “program” or as it was spelled when I was young “programme” always elicit a subtle taste experience of bland sloppy breakfast cereal (probably Weet Bix) softened to pap with milk. The whole experience reeks of boredom and ordinariness and mediocrity. I suspect that these synaesthesia associations are based on memories from my early school years, memories of eating a cheap and convenient and inferior breakfast (better than none I guess) and then being sent to primary school to listen to an unforgivably boring school assembly while being made to stand still in the cold morning air while singing along with one of those dreary songs from the 1970s about the morning (that one by Cat Stevens and there was another, some folk tune). I’m not sure how the word “program” fits into this picture, but I know that it is a word often used in a bland and meaningless way by administrators and bureaucrats and teachers to describe things that turn out to be less exciting than they appeared; “We are going to listen to a radio program this morning children” “If you do your best you will be allowed to take part in a special sport program”. How I hate programs! How I hate mornings! How I hated being made to drink plain milk from a little glass bottle in the morning at school! And how I hate eating nothing but wholegrain slop as a meal to start my day! I just want to to stay up late and watch Mrs Brown’s Boys and get up after 10 and eat bacon, eggs and ripe sweet red grilled tomatoes for breakfast, on crunchy toast with plenty of butter! No I do not want to get with the program!

You thought I was obsessive about documenting my synaesthesia….

What a strange and fascinating thing is James Wannerton’s personal map of his synaesthesia associations between stops in the London Underground railway network and evoked tastes. Lexical-gustatory synaesthete James Wannerton has been a leading figure in promoting a public understanding of synaesthesia for many years now. He even has a Wikipedia page. I hope to be able to find spare time to share my thoughts and observations about this interesting document, but don’t bet on it. Thanks for sharing, Mr Wannerton.

What do London Underground stops taste like? by Ben Riley-Smith Telegraph. August 23rd 2013.  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/road-and-rail-transport/10257633/What-do-London-Underground-stops-taste-like.html

The taste of the tube. BBC World Service Radio. https://soundcloud.com/#bbc-world-service/the-taste-of-the-tube

Wikipedia contributors, “James Wannerton,”  Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=James_Wannerton&oldid=544401943 (accessed August 24, 2013).

Synaesthesia, right?

Dizzee Rascal is cheerfully addicted to “big, dirty stinkin’ bass”. So, would that be a bad smell? I’m sure it wouldn’t be a floral smell, or a light-coloured one either.

Bassline Junkie by Dizzee Rascal – BE WARNED, THIS CLIP CONTAINS BAD LANGUAGE http://youtu.be/0sNb3Mh1ABg

Catherine de Lange wrote last year in New Scientist that red is sweet, crisps are crisper when they make a lot of sound and cheese tastes sharper after one is visually “primed” with pointy shapes. So, does that mean that everyone is a synaesthete?


Can’t stop thinking about food

I am still adding examples to my blog post which is a collection of records of my lexical-gustatory synaesthesia. I keep noticing more examples of this phenomenon in everyday life. This type of synaesthesia and also other types such as grapheme-colour synaesthesia are definitely records or memories of my life as a young child. I know this because so many of the food experiences evoked by this phenomenon are foods that I was familiar with as a child but have rarely eaten as an adult; foods such as party franks, kidney, ricecream, salmon mornay and barley sugar lollies.


Coloured Flavour / Smell Synaesthesia or Taste to Colour Synaesthesia – a type that I only experience occasionally

Most taste experiences are an amalgam of taste sensation on the tongue and smell sensations in the nose, so to be completely correct this isn’t purely triggered by a taste, smell is certainly an element, but in plain-language terms, the trigger is a novel taste or flavour.

This only happens during the unusual situation in which I am at a public swimming pool or some other place where I have the smell of chlorine in my nose and I am also drinking iced coffee, and there is some kind of chemical reaction between the chlorine and the coffee in my mouth/nose resulting in a peculiar smell/taste that is somewhat like a floral or perfumey smell. It is a black-coloured smell/taste. Sometimes the image of a black-coloured flower flashes into my mind, shaped something like a simple lily. Upon reflection I believe that it is the surprise or novelty of the modification of the usual flavour of iced coffee that is the synaesthesia trigger or inducer. Often as an afterthought after this experience I realise that the normal taste of iced coffee is a brown-coloured taste, but I never notice this as it is such an ordinary thing that it kind of stays below the level of consciousness.

Rarely experienced types of synaesthesia – I’ve noticed some interesting patterns

Inspired by reading the fascinating fairly new journal paper by Spanish researchers comparing some more rare types of synesthesia with auras in mysticism, I have been playing with the idea of writing a post in which I list all of the types of synaesthesia that I have ever experienced, the common and the rare, and then I started writing down all of the rare types that I’ve only ever had happen a few times or even only once. I noticed something interesting about these types – out of a total of eight that I’ve thought of, three of them appear to be triggered by the novelty of a sensory or linguistic experience, and all other five types have some aspect of a person or persons as the “inducer” or trigger. So my rarely experienced types of synaesthesia appear to have completely different categories of triggers as my more frequent or ordinary synaesthesia experiences, which can be triggered by learned concepts such as years or numbers, or can be triggered by movement (manual chores) or music or purely sensory experiences like smell or voices. There seem to be two really quite distinct classes of synaesthesia types, the rare sporadic types triggered by persons or novelty, and the common frequent types triggered by the types of sensory and conceptual stimuli that researchers have already fully explored and described, at least in the way that my mind works. Why?

It looks like we’re all synaesthetes when it comes to food

This interesting recent article at Smithsonian.com discusses some studies in the area of cross-modal associations between the senses of sound and taste.

Smith, Peter What does sweetness sound like? Smithsonian.com April 5th 2012. http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/food/2012/04/what-does-sweetness-sound-like/

Recent paper about early visual perception and hunger relevant to lexical-gustatory synaesthesia?

I’ve not been able to access the full text of this paper, and an abstract does not appear to be available from PubMed, but science journalist Mo Costandi has summarized this paper in a tweet thus: “Hungry people see food-related words more clearly than people who’ve just eaten”. Such a psychological process has some important features in common with my lexical-gustatory synaesthesia, which I have described in a post at this blog. The phenomenon apparently observed in this paper is a cognitive bias in a very early stage of sensory perception which is involved with an interest in food. This explanation seems just as applicable to my synaesthesia in which the sound of or the thought of a limited set of non-food words and names automatically evoke the thought of foods that have names that sound simiar to the non-food words or names that trigger the experience. Like other types of synaesthesia, a particular word or name evokes the concept a particular food. Lexical gustatory synesthesia is a scientifically recognized type of synaesthesia, but it is most commonly described in the form in which the sound of words evokes actual taste sensations. My synaesthesia perhaps at times crosses the border between concept and taste sensation, but not strongly. The big difference between the phenomenon apparently observed in this paper and my lexical-gustatory synaesthesia is that one is visual while the other is evoked by concepts or sounds. I thin this is a fine example of how synesthesia is not just a neuropsychological curiousity, but can help scientists to understand the basic workings of the mind.

Radel, Remi and Clément-Guillotin, Corentin Evidence of Motivational Influences in Early Visual Perception: Hunger Modulates Conscious Access. Psychological Science. January 26, 2012. 0956797611427920  Published online before print January 26, 2012, doi:10.1177/0956797611427920. http://pss.sagepub.com/content/early/2012/01/26/0956797611427920.extract

A type of synaesthesia which I experience in which non-food words or names automatically evoke the concepts of particular foods: is lexical-gustatory synaesthesia an evolutionary adaptation?  https://superrecognizer.wordpress.com/2011/01/27/a-type-of-synaesthesia-which-i-experience-in-which-words-or-names-automatically-evoke-the-concepts-of-particular-foods/