A Collection of Strange Beliefs, Amusing Deceptions, and Dangerous Delusions

From Abracadabra to Zombies | View All

synesthesia

(This entry is excerpted from the entry on auras.)

In the October 2004 issue of Cognitive Neuropsychology (vol. 21 no. 7), Dr. Jamie Ward of University College London’s Psychology Department "documented a woman known as GW who could see colors like purple and blue in response to people she knew or their names when read to her," a condition known as emotion-color synesthesia.

Synaesthesia is a condition found in 1 in 2000 people in which stimulation of one sense produces a response in one or more of the other senses. For example, people with synaesthesia may experience shapes with tastes or smells with sounds. It is thought to originate in the brain and some scientists believe it might be caused by a cross-wiring in the brain, for example between centres involved in emotional processing and smell perception. Synaesthesia is known to run in families.*

Dr. Ward writes:

The ability of some people to see the coloured auras of others has held an important place in folklore and mysticism throughout the ages. Although many people claiming to have such powers could be charlatans, it is also conceivable that others are born with a gift of synaesthesia.

GW does not believe she has mystical powers and has no interest in the occult, but it is not hard to imagine how, in a different age or culture, such an interpretation could arise.

Rather than assuming that people give off auras or energy fields that can only be detected by rigged cameras or trained seers, we need only assume that the phenomenon of synaesthesia is taking place.

[new] There are other possibilities, however, as Dr. Steven Novella explains on his blog Neurologica. [/new]

Some synesthetes perceive numbers or letters as having colors or days of the week as possessing personalities.* A rare form of synaesthesia was discovered by Dr Melissa Saenz of the California Institute of Technology: people who hear sounds, such as tapping, beeping, or whirring, when they see things move or flash.*

Thus, perhaps some cases of seeing auras can be explained by synesthesia rather than assuming that auras are energies given off by chakras or signs of delusion or fraud.

further reading

Wikipedia

Synesthesia May Explain Healers Claims of Seeing People's 'Aura'

Last updated 07-May-2012

© Copyright 1994-2012 Robert T. Carroll * This page was designed by Cristian Popa.