Synesthesia and Celebrities

When I joined the St. Louis Synesthesia Research Team as an undergraduate student of philosophy with a profound interest in neuroscience, my knowledge of synesthesia was minimal at best. I knew that synesthetes experienced a “blending of the senses” but that was about it. So I did what any modern person would do, I started searching the Internet for links about synesthesia and synesthetes. One of the first things to catch my eye was the celebrities who have/had synesthesia, are thought to have had synesthesia, or claim to have synesthesia. From iconic actress/model Marilyn Monroe to blind musicianStevie Wonder (sound-color) to Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman (grapheme-color), famous synesthetes can be found in a variety of different forms and professional fields, and synesthesia is found relatively often in artists and musicians. While there are a plethora of synesthetes out there to focus on, I will detail a two of my favorites and encourage you to search the web and see if any of your favorite celebrities are synesthetes! Patrick Stump, vocalist and musician The former lead singer of everyone’s favorite pop-punk band Fall Out Boy, Stump has multiple synesthesiae (grapheme-color and sound-color). He wrote in a 2008 blog post, “For instance the letter ‘F’ for me is green. When I see it written in black I obviously still notice that it is black but it ‘feels’ green. Or ‘S’ is red. Most of the alphabet and numbers from 1-10 have some sort of associated color to me. It’s ultimately totally trivial but I found it fascinating that this is a documented phenomenon and not just me being a weirdo.” Later, in response to a comment on his blog asking if he was a synesthete, Stump responded that he had grapheme-color synesthesia and a “less pronounced” form of sound-color synesthesia. It is interesting to note that Stump sees the ‘actual’ color of a grapheme but ‘feels’ the synesthetic color. This would seem to indicate that his grapheme-letter synesthesia is not projected into space and is consistent with many other synesthetes’ reports. Like many musicians, Stump reports having sound-color synesthesia, although less pronounced than his grapheme-color synesthesia. His multiple synesthesiae certainly make him even more interesting! Ludwig Wittgenstein, philosopher and mathematician The famous Austrian-British philosopher and logician’s synesthesia is a speculative case of grapheme-color synesthesia, stemming from a comment in his book Zettel where he said, “It’s just like the way some people do not understand the question ‘What color has the vowel A for you?” While this comment suggest he had at minimum a rudimentary understanding of what synesthesia was – highly uncommon for his time – many have taken it to suggest that he himself had synesthetic experience. Certainly, Wittgenstein was interested in qualitative phenomenon, and in Remarks on Colour, he...

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