UCL News


Press cutting: Seeing blue? Your blue may not match mine

19 April 2007

Like those jingles you can't stop humming, some bad ideas stick.

This one has maddened me for years: When you and I see a green ball, do we see the same green? …

There is a lawfulness to colour and it would help if we knew where this lawfulness resided. …

Now Dr Jamie Ward [UCL Psychology] might have uncovered an underlying symbolism to colour. Ward's interest is synaesthesia - the experience of a handful of individuals who perceive information through an unexpected sense.

Some hear colours, others smell shapes. The vast majority see sounds. The experiences of individual synaesthetes are notoriously idiosyncratic.

But there are unexpected regularities, and Ward's bulging address book - he knows 450 synaesthetes by name - allows him to spot trends that were formerly invisible. For example, among synaesthetes who see coloured letters, A is often red, B is often blue, and C is often yellow.

"This is likely to hold true for other types of synaesthesia," Ward says, "assuming that we are able to make a large enough number of observations. For instance, certain musical instruments may tend to produce particular colours, shapes and movements." …

Simon Ings, 'China Daily'