Colour fluctuations in grapheme-colour synaesthesia: The effect of clinical and non-clinical mood changes

Collette L. Kay, Duncan Carmichael, Henry E. Ruffell, Julia Simner

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    Abstract / Description of output

    Synaesthesia is a condition that gives rise to unusual secondary sensations (e.g., colours are perceived when listening to music). These unusual sensations tend to be reported as being stable throughout adulthood (e.g., Simner & Logie, 2007, Neurocase, 13, 358) and the consistency of these experiences over time is taken as the behavioural hallmark of genuineness. Our study looked at the influence of mood states on synaesthetic colours. In Experiment 1, we recruited grapheme‐colour synaesthetes (who experience colours from letters/digits) and elicited their synaesthetic colours, as well as their mood and depression states, in two different testing sessions. In each session, participants completed the PANAS‐X (Watson & Clark, 1999) and the BDI‐II (Beck, Steer, & Brown, 1996, Manual for Beck Depression Inventory‐II), and chose their synaesthetic colours for letters A‐Z from an interactive colour palette. We found that negative mood significantly decreased the luminance of synaesthetic colours. In Experiment 2, we showed that synaesthetic colours were also less luminant for synaesthetes with anxiety disorder, versus those without. Additional evidence suggests that colour saturation, too, may inversely correlate with depressive symptoms. These results show that fluctuations in mood within both a normal and clinical range influence synaesthetic colours over time. This has implications for our understanding about the longitudinal stability of synaesthetic experiences, and of how mood may interact with the visual (imagery) systems.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalBritish Journal of Psychology
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2014


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