Synaesthesia Discovery

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Synaesthesia in Quiz: Intuition or the Sixth Sense?

Some people call having synaesthesia is like having the 6th sense or having psychic powers. I don’t know if synaesthesia should be perceived that way, but it does appear that most synaesthetes I know are exceptionally intuitive.

At the end of year 2011, inspired by the lotto ticket my colleagues organised at work, I said to my family that we should buy a family ticket for the New Year Eve mega lotto draw too. I collected two numbers from each of us, i.e., my husband, Skye, Thomas, and myself. At the time, my children didn’t know what lotto was, so I explained to them the rules, and made sure they looked it as a number game rather than a way of winning money. The outcome was that we won 4 numbers and 1 sup in total. Each of us had one number correct except that Skye had both his numbers right.

In the city we live, there is an annual horse racing spring carnival. The biggest event is the famous Melbourne Cup that is on the first Tuesday of November. It has been a long tradition in Australia that people buy a ticket or two on the Cup Day for fun. Last year, for the first time, I turned to Skye to help me pick horse numbers. There was a horse guide available, but Skye said to me he didn’t want to read the guide. He picked two numbers. None of those two were hot favourites or even closer. I was really not confident that they would win. A few hours later, one of those two horses Skye picked won the Cup, and the other one came the second. I was totally astonished.

The interesting thing about Skye is that he doesn’t want to do this type of things often as he doesn’t want us to run out of luck. He tells me that he uses a combination of intuition and mind reading through synaesthesia.

Both Skye and Thomas love watching an adult quiz show on TV after school. The questions are mostly in the multiple choice format, and topics can range from history, geography, science, politics and more. Skye was very excited last week that he started getting 90% of answers correct. Even Thomas was getting quite a lot of them right. I asked them how they could get so many correct answers. Skye admitted that he didn’t understand most of questions, but he had extensive synaesthesia with multiple choice style answers. Usually, he goes for the answer that has the most intensity and has the darkest colour out of all. Sometimes, all answers can appear in one identical colour except one, with his instinct, he knows the one that has a different colour is the right answer.

This was actually not a total surprise to me. I have known about his synaesthesia in multiple choice questions for a long time. He sees answers in various degrees of intensity like seeing different strengths of bold, and different colours.

One of my synaesthete colleagues has told me a similar story before. He visualises different solution options and sees different intensities in different options, and can then determine which option is the best.

This reminds me of another story. My mother had a first cousin, whom I called Uncle, was very good at Chinese Riddles. The extended family used to play Chinese Riddles during the Lantern Festival each year. The Uncle had some uncanny skills of solving those puzzles.

He was working as a clerk at the time, and had never gone to university due to the Cultural Revolution. When the Chinese Riddle contests became popular in China, his whole fate had changed. He was winning one contest after another, and was crowned the Chinese Riddle Master of China. He kept this title for almost the remaining of his life.

I had a lot of memory of my uncle as my brother and I used to love going to his place to visit. Each time we saw some new goodies, e.g., a new washing machine, or a new fridge. He had won so many white goods that we lost the count. The white colour has stuck in my mind since the childhood, and I used to think his place as white, actually still think it in white. After I moved to Australia, my parents often saw him on TV winning national Chinese Riddle Contests.

I went into my own synaesthesia research after the passing of this uncle. I wish I had asked him if he did indeed have synaesthesia. I sensed it might be the case, but I will never be sure.

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