What do Lady Gaga, David Hockney, and Vladimir Nabokov have in common? Sure, there’s critical acclaim, beloved artistic products, and cultural reverence, but according to Artsy, they might also share a rare perceptual condition. Synesthesia, which combines certain senses, is either inherited or caused by a “spontaneous” mutation, the site reports. Imagine sounds having colors and colors have having tastes, plus a number of similar psychedelic-esque variations.
“Synesthesia is more common among artists than it is among the general population,” neuroscientist Richard Cytowic, PhD, said, which might explain why the roster of synesthetes also includes cultural icons like Vincent van Gogh, Stevie Wonder, and possibly even Marilyn Monroe.
According to some studies, synesthetes usually score higher than non-synesthetes on creative cognition tests, “which might ask its subject to conjure as many non-traditional uses for an object like an umbrella as possible,” Artsy reported.
According to Dr. Cytowic, synesthetes often assume that everyone experiences different stimuli the same way they do—so how do you know if you’re part of the estimated four percent of the population that actually has it? Considering there are varying degrees and ways it manifests itself, a simple diagnostic is to analyze whether you seem more creative than those around you.
Have you always DIY dyed your sheets or made works of art out of your breakfast? Are you especially good at bullet journaling? If you’re still not sure (and also super-curious), there is at least one scientific means to gain insight into your creativity: According to some studies, synesthetes usually score higher than non-synesthetes on creative cognition tests, “which might ask its subject to conjure as many non-traditional uses for an object like an umbrella as possible.”
That test may just be worth your time if you’ve noticed the alphabet takes on certain colors in your mind or if particular words have left a (literal) bad taste in your mouth.