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Geometric Shape to Colour Synaesthesia

imageThe discovery of Skye’s Geometric Shape to Colour Synaesthesia 15 months ago was a real turning point on how I viewed Synaesthesia, and its positive effects on the human race.

Many synaesthesia types play a role in a synaesthete’s learning. But to me, Geometric Shape to Colour Synaesthesia almost has its own magic, and gives its bearer an unspeakable power to solve complex geometry problems.

Imagine you are looking at a square printed in normal black, then you turn the shape 45 degrees, and you still see it in black. The visual stimulation by rotating a shape slightly is not much for most people. But for Skye, there is a noticeable difference. He sees two vastly different shapes in two colours, i.e., a red square before the rotation, and a bright yellow diamond after the rotation.

Skye perceives not only different shapes in different colours, but also different angles in different colours. For example, an equilateral triangle is perceived in yellow whereas a right angle triangle is seen in aqua.

When one shape sits inside another, the visual image alters dramatically. I will illustrate it by using the attached picture. I drew an equilateral triangle inside a rectangle in pencil. I asked Skye to explain what he saw by colouring the drawing.

Skye’s synaesthetic colour for a rectangle on its own is dark red whilst for an equilateral triangle on its own is aqua. Therefore, my assumption was that the first glance should give him a yellow equilateral triangle surrounded by a dark red rectangle. But this was not the case. The key reason was that the equilateral triangle had divided the rectangle into three parts: two right angle triangles, one on each side, and the equilateral triangle sitting in the middle.

Although he saw three sides of the rectangle in dark red, he immediately viewed the bottom line, where the rectangle and the triangle intersected, in a different colour. Then the middle triangle became yellowish green, and those two right angle triangles turned into the same turquoise colour (apologies from Skye that one of his colour pencils was not the best, the colour for the left triangle was more accurate).

It may look very complex and confusing. But Skye’s explanation helped me to understand how his mind worked. He did not just see those two right angle triangles on their own, he saw each as half of the middle triangle. Therefore, the yellow colour from the middle triangle spread over aqua blue, and turned it into turquoise. The same concept applied to the middle triangle. The aqua blue colour from the neighbouring triangles landed on yellow, and turned the colour into slightly green.

Here are some of Skye’s geometric shape and colour associations:

Equilateral: Yellow
Acute triangle: Aqua
Isosceles triangle: Dark red
Right triangle: Aqua

Square: Red
Rectangle: Dark red
Diamond: Yellow
Parallelogram: Light green
Trapezoid: Dark red

Pentagon: Orange
Hexagon: Light green
Septagon/ Heptagon: Green
Octagon: Silver
Nonagon: Grey
Decagon: Orange
Undecagon/ Hendecagon: Grey
Dodecagon: Light green
Icosagon: Orange
Circle: Silver
Ellipse: Grey
Oval: Grey
Star: Gold
Sphere: Grey
Cube: Red

On Skye’s first birthday, our new neighbour bought him a set of baby picture books. There was a colour book and there was a shape book with five basic shapes. From that day, Skye couldn’t put those books down. He was looking at them at home, and in his pram wherever we went. He pointed to a shape in his shape book, then pointed to an object with the same shape he saw, and claimed excitedly “circle”, “square”, “triangle”, “oval”!

By five, he knew more shapes than anyone in the family. Last year, he helped a regional mathematics consultant who trained school teachers in Maths by providing him some shape names that the consultant had never heard of.

When we moved a few years ago, I threw Skye’s baby shape and colour books out. I wish I had kept them so that I might be able to find out if some of Skye’s basic geometric shape to colour association came from that baby shape book.

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