Synesthesia is a nonharmful inherited condition in which you automatically experience taste, touch, hearing, smell, and sight in a cross-sensory manner. For example, you might smell a particular perfume and instantly envision green, you might read the word electronics and instantly taste vanilla, or you might always see the number 7 with the color orange. The theory is that some people’s brains (about 4%) simply have a stronger and more extensive network of connection among their senses or regions of the brain that are usually separated during development.
From a business perspective, synesthesia is being explored to enhance the customer experience. I like this idea. We never know exactly what affects the customer experience. Therefore, the more we can inform how we do business with synesthesia-based knowledge, the more skillfully we can design all that contributes to the customer experience.
On the other hand, one could ask why give so much time and attention to synesthetes when they comprise such a small percentage of the population? I think the proper response to that question is that synesthesia is not purely an on-off condition that affects only 4%. Rather, it is a matter of degree. All of us to some extent likely have synesthetic responses. Therein lies the value of gleaning that synesthetic insight as Caroline Winter reports (“The Mind’s Eye” Bloomberg Businessweek, 1/13/14–1/19/14, pp. 63–65):
“[a study] suggests synesthetic design inherently resonates with the general public: When 85 nonsynners listened to a piece of music and evaluated colorful computer animations depicting the song, a majority preferred those created by auditory-to-color synners over those by nonsynners.” (p. 65)
The strong implication is that all people are enriched by giving attention to synesthetic responses because the results are more positive and enjoyable. Synesthetes also tend to be more creative, which again benefits everyone.
This developing field of knowledge and its untold applications will be absolutely fascinating to watch. Perhaps it will be a fresh reminder about how holistic our bodies and our minds truly are.