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Calendar synesthesia

Also called time-space synesthesia

A type of spatial sequence synesthesia


(Image: The months, by Caffeindingon the online debate platform Reddit/Sinestesia“I typically see it facing from the left (autumn). The blue rectangle at the top is January and the months go clockwise from there.”)

In this type of synesthesia, the synesthete has a visual perception of time units such as days, months, hours, years, decades or centuries, seen in the space surrounding or in front of them. Projector synesthetes – a minority – see their time sequences literally in external space, while associator synesthetes perceive them in the mind’s eye but not physically.


(Image: The calendar, by Gingerale947 in this post on the online debate platform Reddit/Synesthesia. 2017.)

The spatial positioning of the elements is highly consistent and tends not to vary throughout the synesthete’s lifetime, and the only change tending to occur with this kind of maps is that the years and decades can sometimes be extended to “add” time units that were originally considered to be in the distant future and were not yet clearly seen. The time units often also have their own shape, texture and/or colour. The days, months, etc. are habitually seen from the perspective of the time unit in question, so in January, for example, the synesthete may feel as if they are standing in front of January and that February is behind, below or beside it, but on the 1st of February the perspective changes so that January shifts over to a neighbouring position or to the “back of the queue”.


(Image: The time of day, by Stacy in the Gallery in Sensequence.de)

Synesthetic calendars are totally idiosyncratic and take multiple forms: there seem to be as many of them as there are people with this type of synesthesia. Some of the most common arrangements are rings, spirals, ladders, lines with curves or sharp bends, endless loops… although the exact forms are probably all unique


(Images: Left: Years, by Brad Pettengill, in his blog. Right: Decades and centuries, by Kerry in the Gallery in Sensequence.de.)

Having this kind of synesthesia often helps the synesthete recall dates and times and some say they have no need for planners or agendas.


(Image: The days of the week, by Barbara in the Gallery in Sensequence.de)

It has been estimated (N. Sagiv et al, 2005that 20% of synesthetes could have time-space synesthesia, and it is therefore a relatively common type.


(Image: Historical eras, by Geo Morganposted in the Facebook group Synesthesia. 2020.)

Image: The decades, by Rebecca Schulz Kluchnyk, posted to the Facebook group Synesthesia. 2020.)

Here is a description written by someone with this type of synesthesia:


“I can see timelines dating back to the 1500s. Things get muddled in between, but the basic "pattern" or "track" is there. It's always there. And it's not in a straight line. It never is. There are so many curves that there's no way for me to actually map it out and make it make sense to anyone who looks at it. If I were to go into detail on how I view individual months and days within the months, I'd have to have a large poster board to do it, as it gets very detailed. Same goes for hours of the day. Days of the week are an oval, but each day has their own hours detailed. The only day that has a slightly different pattern with the hours is Sunday. It's strange how I see time on a scale, on a map. They're not just numbers. They're alive.”

(Source: This post on the online debate platform Reddit/Synesthesia. 2020.)


Go to the page on spatial sequence synesthesia in general


2 comments:

  1. This is a great resource! It is striking how similar my internal calendar is to the "decades" one above, a landscape that begins at the lower left and extends up to the upper right. I read in a book called "The Number Sense" by Stanislas Dehaene that a number of people (both synesthetes and non-synesthetes report such internal number lines (though in the case of some "projector-synesthetes", such "time landscapes" may be external). Thanks for this terrific tool!

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    1. Thanks for commenting Pat and I'm glad you find it interesting! I'll have to check that book out because I've also read about calendar and number apatial sequence being quite common in the general population and not just synesthetes and I need to do some updating about that. I wonder if the difference is that only synesthetes see them in colour or with the great amount of detail/perspective, and as you mention the projector synesthetes actually seeing them in space are a clear case. It's something I want to read about and get more figures for... I don't have this type! I have... an agenda :D

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