[Ref.] Synaesthesia, creativity and art: What is the link?

What evidence, if any, points to a link between synaesthesia and creativity? First, some researchers have noted that synaesthesia is found in a number of famous creative individuals (Mulvenna & Walsh, 2005). A common list of gifted synaesthetes includes the composers Messian (Bernard, 1986) and Scriabin (Peacock, 1985), the painters Kandinsky (Ione & Tyler, 2003) and Hockney (Cytowic, 2002), the physicist Feynman (1988) and the author Nabokov (1967).

Dailey, Martindale, and Borkum (1997) took a somewhat different approach to Domino (1989) and Sitton and Pierce (2004). Their participants were initially grouped according to a measure of creativity and then assessed for synaesthesia-like traits (rather than grouped by reports of synaesthesia and assessed on creativity). The creativity measure used was the Remote Associates Test (RAT, Mednick, 1962; Mednick, 1967) in which participants are given a triplet of words (e.g. elephant – lapse – vivid) and required to find a linking fourth word (e.g. memory). High and low scoring participants were then given a series of tones, vowel sounds and emotion words and for each they were required to decide how well a given colour went with that stimulus. The high creativity group showed a higher degree of consensus about which colour should go with which stimulus.

Ward, J., Thompson-Lake, D., Ely, R., & Kaminski, F. (2008). Synaesthesia, creativity, and art: What is the link? British Journal of Psychology, 99, 127–141.



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