Ideasthesia: How do ideas feel?

“I think, therefore I am” – Descartes.


Scientists and philosophers have often times been at loggerheads about how the mind in its entirety works. Is its separate intangible entity of its own in the brain which dictates the functions. Or if it is an extension of our own physical bodies. How is that the mind can make sense of our primitive animal senses and make them into thoughts? These are all the questions that been on the minds of scientists for the longest time. And a recent study shows that a part of the problem can be figured from how we pose the question itself. The fact that we believe that our ideas are different from our sensory perceptions, is of contention itself. Maybe there is no difference between the two at all.

Senses give a separate set of data to the brain, which get turned into the required mental phenomenon such as – auditory senses make sense of the wind blowing and birds chirping and visual imagery such as trees, traffic etc.

SYNESTHESIA: a phenomenon which allows people to intersect the senses and can let them hear – colors, or taste – sounds. The part of the brain that takes care of the stimuli is behind this phenomenon. Further studies have shown that our understanding of shapes, colors, sounds are the attributing factors to this as well. The crossover of our senses is related to the ideas and concepts of a higher level interpreted by our minds that gets related to the sensory inputs. An example of that can be – the shape “S” can be either seen as the alphabet “s” or the number “5”. And a synesthetes would relate the same to a sound or a color.

NOVEL COLOR ASSOCIATIONS: a practice created by synesthetes that makes use of colors to identify letters that are unfamiliar. Therefore, this practice relies on the link between ideas and senses is known as – Ideasthesia.

IDEASTHESIA: this is a rudimentary and a fundamental part of our life. The idea that all of us relate the color red to something hot and the color blue to something cool. Similarly, bright colors can be seen as high pitched and on the other hand earthy tomes can be seen as low pitched. These association can be drawn from cultural references also, but most of them are present even in an infant and apes, suggesting that we are born with them. Many have researched that same words can be associated with same shapes around the world without them having any direct relation and context. This brings to notice that the senses of color, sounds and other such stimuli are organized into networks which form these associations which is alike to our language network. For example – metaphors do not have a logical sense but we still perceive them to make sense. Ideasthesia suggest that the processes of capturing by visually seeing colors and shapes and then interpreting them further occur simultaneously. It makes sense of the sensory perceptions taking place at the same time as our understating of the world. Therefore, it is an interrelated network where one can not exist without the other.

This has some major implications to both the philosophers and the scientists, and more study needs to be carried out in order to make a better sense of the concept.

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