Concept-shape synesthesia. Thought processes-shapes or colour

This could refer to two types of synesthesia, one simpler and the other more complex, where series or sequences of concepts trigger a concurrent of shapes. An example of the more simple type would be perceiving the concept of left as round and right as square, or associating each language with a different geometric shape. The first description below is an example of this type, which does not appear to be very common and is reminiscent of duality synesthesia (stimulus-parity synesthesia, for example, where concepts are either odd or even) but with more than two categories.

The second, more complex, type is triggered by concepts, ideas, information, categories, procedures, thought processes for problem-solving etc. It evokes geometric shapes, lines and other forms and/or dynamic colours as its concurrents, which are involuntarily and consciously perceived visually as the synesthete thinks. In the case of associator synesthetes they only appear in the mind’s eye, while projector synesthetes actually see them physically in space, although this manifestation is extremely rare. It is a very uncommon type in general and has similarities with certain types of mathematical synesthesia. It occurs in highly intelligent individuals and some savants could have this type of synesthesia.

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


The simpler type:

"Disney is round. Adidas is triangular. I’m triangular. I get along with people who are squares and rectangles. I don't typically get along with rounder personalities. Left handed people tend to be squares. Right handedness (the idea) is triangular."

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

The more complex type:

"Ok so basically upon hearing or thinking of a concept or issue, I will see it in my head as different coloured shapes on a black plane that interact with each other and having conceptual meaning to me which I can then verbalise by watching the interactions between the shapes. It’s like if I see a blue circle wrap around and engulf a red triangle, I now know and understand the concept."

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

“I see complex, multidimensional, topological forms at all times, and they’re more pronounced when I’m in deep thought. It’s like I’m literally seeing the pure logic that underlies everything—math, philosophy, everything. It’s really beautiful and it’s been there for my entire life. If I need to go back to a thought, it’s like the shape will shift back to show the specific point where that thought was recorded.

My shapes have too many dimensions to perceive their exact edges, but somehow I know where they are. There’s no way I could draw them, and even attempting to feels like a horrible insult to myself.”

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

“It turns out that ideas and concepts taking the form of very-solid black outlines of cubes is not a part of the typical human experience. (…) They either speed or float past. They're large, about a metre in width and 0.5 metres in height, and are see-through but for their (very thin!) outline and a possible image associated with them that's inside the rectangular prism shape.

(…)  They're involuntary, my mind's eye just generates the images unprompted.

As a 'hello' to this community, despite how short my stay might be, have a horrible artistic rendition of a 'thought tornado' that I see roaming around my school sometimes."

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

This conversation in a post in Reddit/Synesthesia (2021) also has some very interesting examples of these visualisations.

And this 2016 article in The Atlantic magazine, What's It Like to See Ideas as Shapes?, is about the app designer Jonathan Jackson: “Every person he meets, every sentence he reads, and every decision he makes are presented as data points on a kind of continuously moving mental scatter plot, creating figures he compares to constellations.”

Thought processes-colour

(Painting by Emily Holt)

“This is a self-portrait” says Emily Holt. “My paternal grandma & I think in abstract colors that have textures & movements. My colors are always there and no one color expresses a particular thing or feeling. In my family these ways of thinking are normal.”

Related synesthesia types:


The mathematical synesthesias

This page last updated: 14 June 2021

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