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Auditory-gustatory synesthesia

Also called sound-taste synesthesia


With this type of synesthesia, certain sounds – general or musical – evoke flavours. For one synesthete each different musical note might have its own taste, for example, while for others the sound of a clarinet could trigger a perception of caramel, a specific birdsong could taste of chicken soup, classical music could be bitter, or it could be sweet perhaps.


It is not a very common type. In his study on the prevalence of the different types of synesthesia, Sean Day indicates that 5% of the synesthetes questioned reported having this type of experience.


The flavours are consistent: the same sound or inducer always gives rise to the same taste concurrent. It can be a strong or weak taste, and it might be accompanied by a perception of texture. In milder cases it can simply be the idea of a taste, or a kind of "mouthfeel". People who have this type of synesthesia normally only have a taste reaction to a limited number of auditory stimuli, and they can sometimes be only a few and very specific.


In general, auditory-gustatory synesthetes say that if they are eating something at the same time as hearing the sound that triggers their taste experience, the sensation from the food is logically stronger and tends to cancel out the synesthetic flavour produced by the sound. Also, if they are closely focused on something else when hearing the sounds or the music the taste sensation can be weak or they do not experience it at all. It is easy to imagine that if this was not the case they could have major difficulties in their day-to-day life.

 

Here are some descriptions written by people with this type of synesthesia:


“Every sound I hear, especially word sounds, comes with an involuntary taste and texture experience attached. This is a real mouthfeel and not just a simple association. If I hear my dog bark, I experience the taste and texture of runny custard in my mouth. The word “like” tastes of yoghurt, the name “Martin” has the tastes and texture of a warm Bakewell tart. Individual voices have taste and texture, as does all music.”

(James Wannerton, in an interview with Chrissie Giles for the online magazine Quartz. 2017.)


"I definitely taste sounds, but the stronger sensation for me would best be described as mouthfeel, where I can sense the texture or viscosity of sounds as though I'm eating them.”

“That's the case for me also! Although it is accompanied by flavor.”

(Source: These comments on the online debate platform Reddit/Synesthesia2020.)

Timbre-taste:

“Personally, I love listening to piano because it tastes like caramel and chocolate (generally, milk chocolate). However, I hate some synthesizer sounds because they taste like black licorice.”

“Instruments almost always have the same tastes:
Piano: chocolate
Violin: steak
Trumpet: lollipop or cheese
Guitar: steak
Drum sets: crisps”

(Source: This post and this comment, both by the same person, on the online debate platform Reddit/Synesthesia. 2020 and 2021.)


Song-taste:

“Way less sad, by AJR, tastes like caramel and chocolate Danette (yogurt), cherry lollipop, and biscuit (the kind of biscuit that's inside Kit Kat bars), November, by Max Richter, tastes like steak,Happiness, by Hobo Johnson, tastes like pizza,
And she will miss you, by Gracie Abrams, tastes like bacon and goat cheese (and also chocolate, a little bit).
(Among many other songs.)”

(Source: This comment on the online debate platform Reddit/Synesthesia. 2021.)

 

Types of auditory-gustatory synesthesia: (the types with links go to a specific page about them on this site)

General sounds-taste

Timbre-taste (see example above)

Musical note-taste

Chord-taste

Key signature-taste

Musical genre-taste

Song-taste (and see example above)

Voice-taste

Phoneme-taste (lexical-gustatory synesthesia in response to words that are heard)

Lexical-gustatory synesthesia

This is a type of synesthesia where words have taste. It can be triggered by reading the words, hearing them spoken, or simply by thinking about them. If the taste impression comes from words that are heard it could perhaps be considered a kind of auditory-gustatory synesthesia, although it would probably be better classified as a conceptual type of synesthesia as it is also related to the semantics of the word and not merely its sound.

Go to the page on lexical-gustatory synesthesia


Go to the page on auditory-olfactory synesthesia (sound-to-smell)


This page last updated: 10 July 2021

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