Concept-taste and concept-smell synesthesia

Alternative names could be conceptual-gustatory and conceptual-olfactory synesthesia

One very uncommon type of synesthesia involves a taste or smell concurrent being triggered by different concepts that form part of a series or sequence.

Two examples of this type with documented cases involve graphemes (letters and numbers) and colours: grapheme-taste, grapheme-smell, colour-to-taste and colour-to-smell synesthesia. There are also cases involving time units, where the concept of each month, day of the week etc. causes a specific taste or smell to be perceived. 

Here is an example of some people who have this subtype for days of the week:

"For me, days of the week have tastes and colors. Mondays (pastel pink), Wednesdays (pastel green), and Fridays (pastel orange), all have a light, sweet taste. Tuesdays and Thursdays (light blue and navy blue) have a heavy, bitter taste on the back of my throat. Saturdays and Sundays (light yellow/off white) have a taste hard to describe as anything but clear. Almost like chicken broth, but without the taste of chicken.

And yeah, it is really weird to have. Sometimes I have to stop myself from swallowing when thinking or talking about days of the week."

(Source: This comment on the Synesthesia subReddit. 2013.)

“Monday: rice. Tuesday: spinach. Wednesday: nails. Thursday: stir fry. Friday: smells/tastes like flower toilet spray. Saturday: caramel chocolate. Sunday: cheap biscuits and tea.”

“Monday tastes like ice cream mixed with chocolate syrup. It’s very vivid. Tuesday has a taste that’s kind of meaty that I can’t identify. The others I don’t really have an automatic association for.”

(Source: These comments on the Synesthesia subReddit. 2020.)

And here is someone who has concept-smell synesthesia with different types of insects:

“There are a few specific insects that I can smell whenever I see one. Each insect has a smell that is unique to that type. For example this one kind of moth has the "moth" smell and I never smell that same scent unless I see that one kind of moth. (…) Note, these are not insects that emit odors.”

(Source: a comment on the Tree page on olfactory-visual synesthesia. 2022.)

And this interesting case involves the styles or feelings of the inkflows of a series of different writing instruments:

"I found myself always smelling marzipan when I use a pen I like. I thought maybe the ink just smelt like marzipan but after asking friends and using different pens I've realised it's just me that smells it and it can be different pens but it's specific to how smooth the ink writes on the page."

(Source: This post on the Synesthesia subReddit. 2023.)

As with other types of synesthesia, the taste or smell concurrents are automatic or involuntary, and they are consistent. In practice, for these types of synesthesia to manifest, some focus or concentration on the stimulus in question would probably be required, or a particular frame of mind (it would occur at times when the synesthete is particularly sensitive, tired, relaxed, etc.).

Lexical-gustatory and lexical-olfactory synesthesia, where words have tastes or smells, could perhaps be included in this group if it is considered that the words triggering them are concepts.

Some types of musical sequence synesthesia with taste or smell concurrents could also fit in with this definition. These would mainly be cases of tastes or smells evoked by musical notes, chords and songs/musical genres.

Another type would be personality-taste/personality-smell synesthesia.


Go to the page on colour-to-taste synesthesia

Go to the page on colour-to-smell synesthesia

Go to the page on grapheme-taste and grapheme-smell synesthesia (letters and numbers)

Go to the page on smelling and tasting images

Go to the page on lexical-gustatory synesthesia (tasting words)

Go to the page on lexical-olfactory synesthesia (smelling words)

Go to the page on personality-taste and personality-smell synesthesia

Go to the page on musical note-taste and chord-taste synesthesia

Go to the page on song/musical genre-taste synesthesia

This page last updated: 07 March 2023

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