Jamie Ward. The Frog Who Croaked Blue: Synesthesia and the Mixing of the Senses. Routledge, 2009 - Reviewed by Peter Rogerson

In this fascinating book, psychologist Jamie Ward takes us on a tour of synesthesia, the confusion of senses which allows some people to see sounds, experience numbers and letters as having colours, hear lights and taste thunder. There are several areas in which this should be of interest to Magonians.

There is the sense of having experiences for which there is no existing vocabulary. Some synesthetes describes their synesthetic colours or other visual experiences as occurring in places like the back of their heads, or in the pit of their stomachs, and it is clear that they have great difficulty in describing these experiences using existing language, which of course has been developed by non synesthetes! Some of these experiences look very confusing to the rest of us, for example someone who always sees the letter "a" in green, can seen that at the same time as seeing the letter in say red print.

Synesthesia challenges our common sense realistic view of perception, the idea that things are just as we subjectively see, hear, taste feel them. If some people can "see" music or "hear" colours, what does that mean about what the real world is "really" like.

Synesthesia might explain some "paranormal" experiences, the example that Ward gives is the experience that some people have of seeing auras around people, but one might speculate further and wonder if there are for example people to whom, trace odours might produce visual or auditory experiences.

A particularly interesting example that Ward discusses, are those people, can feel what they see, if they, for example, see someone slapped across the face, will actually feel the slap on their own faces. In some ways such experiences might be relating to the actions of mirror neurones, and I wonder if they might give us insights into cases of "mass hysteria", such as that discussed by Bob Rickard in the current Fortean Times (no. 266, September 2010).

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