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Impact Factor:0.917 | Ranking:Psychology 64 out of 76 | Psychology, Experimental 80 out of 85
Source:2016 Release of Journal Citation Reports, Source: 2015 Web of Science Data

Synaesthesia: The Prevalence of Atypical Cross-Modal Experiences

  1. Julia Simner
  2. Catherine Mulvenna
  3. Noam Sagiv§
  4. Elias Tsakanikos#
  5. Sarah A Witherby§
  1. Psychology, University of Edinburgh, 7 George Square, Edinburgh EH8 9JZ, Scotland, UK
  1. e-mail: j.simner{at}ed.ac.uk
  1. Christine Fraser
  2. Kirsten Scott
  3. Jamie Ward§
  1. Psychology, University of Edinburgh, 7 George Square, Edinburgh EH8 9JZ, Scotland, UK
  1. Department of Psychology, University of Glasgow, 58 Hillhead Road, Glasgow G12 8QB, Scotland, UK
  2. § Department of Psychology, University College London, London WC1E 6BT, UK
  3. # Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, Estia Centre, 66 Snowfields, London SE1 3SS, UK


Sensory and cognitive mechanisms allow stimuli to be perceived with properties relating to sight, sound, touch, etc, and ensure, for example, that visual properties are perceived as visual experiences, rather than sounds, tastes, smells, etc. Theories of normal development can be informed by cases where this modularity breaks down, in a condition known as synaesthesia. Conventional wisdom has held that this occurs extremely rarely (0.05% of births) and affects women more than men. Here we present the first test of synaesthesia prevalence with sampling that does not rely on self-referral, and which uses objective tests to establish genuineness. We show that (a) the prevalence of synaesthesia is 88 times higher than previously assumed, (b) the most common variant is coloured days, (c) the most studied variant (grapheme - colour synaesthesia)—previously believed most common—is prevalent at 1%, and (d) there is no strong asymmetry in the distribution of synaesthesia across the sexes. Hence, we suggest that female biases reported earlier likely arose from (or were exaggerated by) sex differences in self-disclosure.

  • Received June 6, 2005.
  • Revision received November 4, 2005.
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