Is emotion a synesthetic concurrent?

Music-emotion, smell-emotion, colour-emotion… are they types of synesthesia?

Emotions can be a synesthetic inducer, i.e. a stimulus triggering a synesthetic experience, but they are not normally considered a concurrent or synesthetic experience in itself, except for a few specific exceptions.

Emotion as an inducer of synesthesia:

Emotion-colour is a type of synesthesia where feeling a specific emotion triggers a colour perception. An example would be perceiving the colour purple or seeing a haze of that colour clouding your vision on feeling sad. The colours are perceived consistently (same emotion = same colour) and they do not usually coincide with culturally-accepted colour symbolisms such as green=envy, etc.

Go to the page on emotion-colour and other related synesthesia types

There is also a type of synesthesia in which emotions perceived in other people trigger colour sensations.

Go to the page on perceived emotion-to-colour (and other concurrents)

Emotion as a synesthetic concurrent:

It is common for emotion to accompany a synesthetic concurrent, but it is not normally considered a concurrent in itself. The only type of synesthesia with an exclusively emotional concurrent that is accepted as such today is tactile-emotion (or texture-emotion), a rare type that has been demonstrated to have similarities with other types of synesthesia. In a study in 2008, V. S. Ramachandran and D. Brang discussed two possible cases where certain tactile stimuli (textures) triggered specific, consistent and culturally atypical emotions.

Go to the page on tactile-emotion synesthesia

The following manifestations are NOT considered synesthesia:

Colour-emotion: Most people associate the different colours with emotions, and this is not considered synesthesia. In general, the colour-emotion pairings follow a set of learnt and accepted cultural norms (red = anger, passion; yellow = happiness; green = envy, for example).

Smell-emotion: Smells can trigger not only memories of past events and places but also a very wide range of emotional sensations. With sensitivity and concentration, they can produce experiences that are quite out of the ordinary and even sublime. No other sense is able to evoke images and sensations as immediate and emotionally moving as the sense of smell. This experience isn’t considered synesthesia though. More information on this interesting phenomenon on the page about smell and memories.

Music-emotion: Feeling strong, consistent emotions on listening to certain types of music (happiness, sadness, nostalgia, enthusiasm, fear, uncertainty…) is common to most people and is certainly an indicator of musical sensitivity, but it isn’t synesthesia.

Frisson, ASMR and grima are three automatic, involuntary physical reactions to auditory stimuli that are connected with emotion, and none are considered synesthesia. There is more information on these three phenomena in the last section of the page on auditory-tactile synesthesia.

Misophonia: sound-emotion? Misophonia is a condition where certain sounds such as people eating, slurping or whistling create anger and repugnance and provoke a sudden overwhelming feeling of extreme stress, a “fight or flight” reaction.

Despite a few similarities that have inspired some people to include it on lists of types of synesthesia, it is different for many reasons and it is mistaken to consider it as such. It differs from synesthesia in that it is not idiosyncratic, it is exclusively negative and the onset is at a much later age, among other reasons. Go to the page on misophonia

However, emotion is a kind of “by-product” of synesthesia.

Synesthetic experiences are frequently characterised by having a strong emotional charge, normally positive. Some examples: a person with taste-colour or taste-shape synesthesia might feel a rush of happiness or euphoria on perceiving their photisms; for an auditory-visual synesthete, “watching” music can create peace and contentment as they see and feel the colours and shapes; grapheme-colour synesthetes consider the colours of their letters and numbers harmonious and correct and can often have a reaction of malaise and confusion if they see them represented in another colour (the “Stroop effect”).

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