Definition of projective and associative synesthesia / projector and associator

Definition of projective and associative synaesthesia

In visual types of synesthesia, the term “projective synesthesia” is used when the synesthetic concurrent is seen physically before the eyes as if it was on a screen in space, and “associative synesthesia” is when it is perceived only in the mind’s eye but not seen physically.


Taking the example of someone with auditory-visual synesthesia who sees a yellow line when they hear the sound of a violin:


If the person sees the yellow line physically in external space as if it was really there in front of them, they have projective synesthesia. This person is called a “projector synesthete”.


However, if they automatically perceive the visual sensation of the yellow line in their mind but not physically, they have associative synesthesia and are called an “associator synesthete”.


Associative synesthesia is much more common than projective synesthesia.


  1. Can you have some forms of synesthesia be associative and some projective in the same person?

    1. Yes, that happens, so a particular synesthete might have, for example, grapheme-colour that is associative and they just "know" which colour the letters are but at the same time they have very strong chromesthesia and see the colours physically. I think it probably depends somewhat on whether the person has a milder or a stronger, more invasive form of each particular type of synesthesia.