Tactile-emotion synesthesia

An alternative name is touch-emotion synesthesia and it could also be called texture-emotion synesthesia

Emotion is not normally considered a synesthetic concurrent when it is triggered alone: it is merely a “by-product” accompanying other concurrents such as colour, shapes or tactile sensations. However, a study by Vilayanur S. Ramachandran and David Brang in 2008 addressed two cases where different textures triggered specific, idiosyncratic and highly consistent emotional reactions, which they considered to sufficiently meet the requirements to fit the definition of synesthesia. Two women who had reported these experiences, AW and HS, were given different textures to touch or feel on their skin under laboratory conditions, causing them to show very specific emotions. They said they had felt these emotions all their lives, and they were proven to be consistent when an identical test was run six months later. They were not the typical sensations produced by textures, as some examples were feeling anxiety on touching toothpaste, embarrassment on touching wax, relief on passing their hand over a certain type of sandpaper or laughter on handling a piece of silk.

The authors of the study suggest that this uncommon phenomenon arises when “associations that are made fleetingly by all of us become entrenched - automatic or obligatory - in synesthetes due to a form of 'auto-kindling'”, but they establish two main criteria for it to be considered synesthesia rather than a mere cross-modal correspondence: the tactile-emotional connection must be strong and it must be idiosyncratic, as is the case for the feeling of being “frustrated, lost and a bit confused” felt by AW when she touches corduroy.

The following two acounts show striking similarities with the cases in Ramachandran and Brang’s study and could also be considered cases of texture-emotion or touch-emotion synesthesia:

“Rocks are calm/content, paper napkins are skin crawling anxiety, towels are really giddy, my phone has shpilkes, etc... I get those emotions immediately when I touch those things and when I see other people touching them. I always have to ask people to put down napkins because of the effect it has on me. (...)

I’ve had the same emotional reactions to things since I was little. Some have different levels of intensity and/or are more complex and difficult to explain than others, though.”

(Source: This post and comment on Reddit/Synesthesia. 2020.)

Textures make emotions. The emotions I feel are not simple. And the longer I touch something, the more it evolves. (...) Immediately, jean makes me feel this mixture of hate and revulsion. If I force myself to continue touching it, I start to feel a weird kind of desperation; like I'm looking for something I can't find.

Everything has a feel. Certain grains of wood (a chair in my living room) make me feel sorrow and loneliness while others (trim on my bathroom wall) make me feel safety and warmth. Some metals feel a sense of cleanliness and satisfaction while others feel anxious, like I forgot something really important.

The touch part extends to my mouth and, in a weirder way, to my ears as well. The texture (not taste) of certain foods cause an emotion. For example, the crunchy/chewy texture of waffles makes me feel this kind of doomed resignation while waffle-flavored jelly beans don't. I get a similar doomed resignation from lumpy mac and cheese.”

(Source: the defunct website The Experience Project. 2015.)

Go to the page Is emotion a synesthetic concurrent?

1 comment:

  1. This is the first time I’ve ever been quoted in an article like this! XD