Synthetic Synesthesia: The Art of Remembering Numbers

October 9, 2015 at 11:43 am (Thinking) (, , , )


By associating numbers or letters with colours, you will be more likely to remember sequences of them and verify if there are mistakes in them. Who doesn’t want a better memory?

 I have synesthesia. Essentially this means that my brain has some extra wiring in it that makes it automatically associate colours with other stimuli. In my case, when I see or think of numbers, letters, or dates, my mind’s eye generate a colour that is static for those things. For example, when I see the number 7, I see a specific dull shade of blue that never changes over time. I also see colours when I interact with people, but that’s a bit less common as far as synesthesia cases go, and it certainly isn’t as useful as numbers and letters.

Why do you care about this? Because it offers a new and powerful memory technique, and I think it can be useful even if you don’t have synesthesia. Here’s how it works. Your brain is great at remembering places; humans have been doing this for a long time. Your brain is also good at identifying and remembering colours and textures. What your brain isn’t good at is remembering sequences of numbers and letters – we haven’t had consistent forms of written language for very long as a species.

My proposed trick is that when I am presented with a string of numbers, I will encode them into a sequence or grid of colours in my mind. Instead of remembering which number goes where in the sequence, my theory is that I will have an easier time remembering what colours in the sequence are warm vs cool, or light vs dark – essentially giving me additional tests to ensure I am correcting remembering the sequence.

Okay. That’s how it works, but how can you use it? Well, the brain is a magical piece of machinery; it can be reprogrammed and restructured with just the power of thought. Start by picking a specific colour for each number. The colours can be the same general colours as long as they are not consecutive, but should always be different shades.

For example, you could select the following mapping:

  1. Bright sky blue
  2. Dull, brick red
  3. Lemon yellow

And so on. Now is the part that requires effort: you have to constantly think about each number as being written in that colour. In your mind, pretend you are drawing these colours in crayons using their selected colours. Try some exercises on your computer by drawing numbers in MS Paint using these colours. When you do this, you are creating new associations in your brain that will eventually become second nature to you. The act of writing numbers with your associated colours will trigger something called the “generation effect” – the idea that you will remember things better if your brain “generates” the answer than if you were just reading it (Jacoby, 1978).

This article was originally posted here: http://www.linkedin.com/pulse/synthetic-synesthesia-art-remembering-numbers-jake-seigel

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