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date: 22 September 2020

Abstract and Keywords

The study of synaesthesia has moved from single case studies to group comparisons over the last decades. These endeavours have brought about detailed knowledge on the phenomenology of synaesthesia across its range of different variants, and have provided numerous cognitive behavioural paradigms with which to test for "genuine" synaesthesia. Researchers have begun to group synaesthetes into ever more sub-groups depending on i) which senses are affected and ii) the way synaesthesia is experienced. In the latter case, an influential distinction concerns the separation of synaesthetes into projector (the synaesthetic percept is externally projected on the grapheme) and associator (the synaesthetic percept is experienced "in the mind's eye") synaesthetes. Subsequent studies reported inconsistencies with which individuals described their purportedly associated versus projected status. For example, some synaesthetes categorised themselves in different ways when asked on two different occasions (first as an associator then as a projector, or vice versa). This inconsistency may not reflect an unstable synaesthetic experience, but rather, a problem with methodology, because synaesthetes are often asked to verbalise what is essentially a visual phenomenon. We argue that illustrations are a superior means to properly demonstrate individual differences in the synaesthetic experience. This argument is based on a recent study in which participants were more reliably categorized into projector and associator categories when using an illustrated, rather than a purely verbal synaesthesia questionnaire (Skelton, Ludwig and Mohr 2009). After reporting these study details, we conclude that future studies testing individual differences in synaesthesia should use illustrations when inquiring about the subjective synaesthetic experience of their participants.

Keywords: individual differences, projector - associator, self-report questionnaires, verbal questions versus illustrations

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