"Aura" synesthesia (projective personality-colour synesthesia)

Personality-colour, person-colour and perceived emotion-to-colour synesthesia can all be called “aura” synesthesia when they are projective rather than associative (i.e. when the concurrent colour perception is seen physically in the real world and not merely in the mind’s eye). A synesthete who projects their perceptions in this way sees one or more colours located around the head or body of the person observed, these being the colours they associate with their personality type or the emotions they intuitively sense that they are feeling.

They may perceive one single colour or, more often, several colours together, which can be more or less intense, layered or in other patterns or may even have texture and/or movement. Different colours tend to be seen for each person observed, although certain colours correspond to determined personality traits they feel the person in question possesses, or to emotions or attitudes they intuitively perceive in the person at that particular time. In this type of synesthesia the emotional aspect is important in general, particularly for the perceiver: in fact it is sometimes referred to as "emotionally mediated synesthesia".

These synesthetes are usually highly intuitive people and can have a high degree of sensitivity and empathy. However, it is a type of synesthesia rather than a metaphysical capability and is therefore a different phenomenon from auras reported by clairvoyants (although the cause for what some consider to be mystic auras may often actually be this type of synesthesia; a study by Milán, Iborra et al, Auras in mysticism and synaesthesia: A comparison addresses both types). 

In Sean Day’s study on the prevalence of the different types of synesthesia, it is estimated that 6.5% of synesthetes might have this type and it therefore does not appear to be particularly rare, although part of this percentage is possibly accounted for by associator synesthetes who only “see auras” or perceive the colours in their mind’s eye and who tend to be much more numerous than those who actually physically see their colours projected outside their own body space.

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

“My synesthesia is projective, so I do actually see the colors in my visual field.

All the colors appear to me as a translucent haze around people, particularly their head and torso. (...) My associations are less with personality as they are with mood or attitude. (...) Yes, I see them both around my limbs and around my head and torso while looking in the mirror.”

(Source: This comment on the online debate platform Reddit/Synesthesia. 2019.)

“Personality-color and emotion-color for me! The personality is sort of a backdrop for the emotions. Mine are often also around a person’s head. Usually over the shoulders or beside the face.

I’m a child/adolescent licensed counselor, and the emotion and personality colors are a huge asset in counseling sessions.”

(Source: This comment on the online debate platform Reddit/Synesthesia. 2018.)

SeeSeeMonkeyMee 2018

“A couple of things happen when I’m talking to/looking at someone. When personality is “detected” (when a color is prevalent), it is as though their color becomes an indicator and stays in the background as I’m talking to them. (…) When I’m scanning a room, at a party for example, this (pictured above) is what people look like to me. Not faces, but colors.”

(Source: This comment by the author of the picture above, on the online debate platform Reddit/Synesthesia. 2018. )

Some scientific studies and information on this type of synesthesia:

Colored halos around faces and emotion-evoked colors: A new form of synesthesia (Ramachandran et al, 2011)

Auras in mysticism and synaesthesia: A comparison (Milán, Iborra et al, 2011)

This entry in NeuroWiki (discussion forum about neuroscience research with summaries of current research trends and ideas.)

Go to the page on person-colour synesthesia

Go to the page on personality-colour synesthesia

Go to the page on perceived emotion-to-colour synesthesia

This page last updated: 22 April 2021

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