The alleged psychic abilities that allow people to see auras around others may just be a quirk of the brain, according to a University College London (UCL) study of a rare form of synesthesia, where some people see colorful “auras” around their loved ones.
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Emotional color synesthesia
A case study published in the journal Cognitive Neuropsychology shows how some people may perceive colors in response to familiar people or emotionally evoking words, a condition known as color-emotion synesthesia. Writes about it News-Medical.
Dr. Jamie Ward, author of the study, says: “It is commonly believed that some people have the magical ability to detect the hidden emotions of others by seeing the colorful ‘aura’ or energy field they radiate. Our study suggests a different interpretation. These colors do not reflect the latent energies emitted by other people, rather they are created entirely in the brain of the beholder.”
In the study, Dr. Ward of the University of California Department of Psychology documented a woman known as GW who could see colors such as purple and blue in response to people she knew or their names when read to her. The words caused color to spread throughout her field of vision, while the people themselves seemed to have colored “auras” projected around them. For example, “James” called pink, “Thomas” black, and “Hannah” blue.
A similar test using 100 words rated on a scale of 1 to 7 for their emotional impact found that highly emotional words such as fear or hate also evoke colors. Words associated with positive emotions tended to evoke pink, orange, yellow, and green, while words associated with negative emotions evoked brown, gray, and black.
Although it is quite common to metaphorically describe people or emotions in terms of colors, GW actually reported seeing them clearly. Indeed, when “James” (the pink word) was written in the wrong color (like blue), her reaction time slowed down.
Synesthesia is a condition, occurring in 1 in 2,000 people, in which stimulation of one sense causes a response in one or more other senses. For example, people with synesthesia may perceive shapes with tastes or smells with sounds. It is thought to originate in the brain, and some scientists believe it may be caused by crosstalk in the brain, such as between centers involved in processing emotions and smelling. It is known that synesthesia is inherited.
Dr. Jamie Ward continues: “The ability of some people to see the colored auras of others has held an important place in folklore and mysticism for centuries. While many people who claim to have such powers may be charlatans, it is also possible that others are born with the gift of synesthesia.”
Before believing that some people have supernatural abilities, scientists recommend first of all to assume that synesthesia is taking place.