Sunday, 6 May 2007

Beatles Show Their Colours

One of the common symptoms of the neurologial condition synaesthesia is that words are seen in terms of colours. Researchers have, for many years, been trying to find if there are correlations between synaesthesiacs - for example, whether most of them think of the colour pink when they think of the word 'eighteen' or 'gamble'.

In a controlled study of 300 synaesthesiacs in the USA, it was decided that social conditioning often overrules the condition, especially in older testees: the participants were likely to think of the word 'bubblegum' as pink because it is pink, rather than for reasons which are not to do with the actual 'item'. Very familiar words become 'numb' - a test showed that the names of the biggest US cities showed little correlation, leading experts to claim, as always expected, that synaesthesia is experienced on an individual basis.

However, in a controlled test of 225 young synaesthesiacs, in India in the early 2000s, researchers removed those who said they were familiar with the Beatles by name. Asked to tick colours on charts when shown the names of the Fab Four, there were astonishing results from the youngsters (mostly non-English speakers). The names Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr were all selected in the light yellow-light green spectrum, by between 60 and 70% of the testees - an unprecedented correlation. Only John Lennon's name did not coordinate, with a vast range of colours, mainly darker shades, being selected for his name!
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