Red, green, blue equals 1, 2, 3: Digit-color synesthetes can use structured digit information to boost recall of color sequences

A. Lina Teichmann, Mark R. Nieuwenstein, Anina N. Rich*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Digit-color synesthetes report experiencing colors when perceiving letters and digits. The conscious experience is typically unidirectional (e.g., digits elicit colors but not vice versa) but recent evidence shows subtle bidirectional effects. We examined whether short-term memory for colors could be affected by the order of presentation reflecting more or less structure in the associated digits. We presented a stream of colored squares and asked participants to report the colors in order. The colors matched each synesthete's colors for digits 1-9 and the order of the colors corresponded either to a sequence of numbers (e.g., [red, green, blue] if 1 = red, 2 = green, 3 = blue) or no systematic sequence. The results showed that synesthetes recalled sequential color sequences more accurately than pseudo-randomized colors, whereas no such effect was found for the non-synesthetic controls. Synesthetes did not differ from non-synesthetic controls in recall of color sequences overall, providing no evidence of a general advantage in memory for serial recall of colors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)100-110
Number of pages11
JournalCognitive Neuroscience
Issue number2-3
Publication statusPublished - 27-Jun-2015

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