Helping is Green, But Justice is Red: The Influence of Synesthesia on Educational and Vocational Foci in a Collegiate Population
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Synesthesia is a rare condition in which the senses of an individual are perceived to be combined, creating associations between various stimuli and sensations. To date, fifty-four types of synesthesia have been discovered, and objective tests exist for twenty of these (Eaglemen, 2007). While past research has been conducted on the underlying causes and influencers of synesthesia, little has been done to investigate the greater implications and applications that come with it. Synesthesia has been associated with heightened memory and enhanced learning, so it is not unreasonable to predict that a synesthete may develop prowess in certain skills associated with their type of synesthesia (e.g. a person with number-space synesthesia being better at mathematics or a person with personality-color synesthesia taking interest in sociology or psychology.) This study investigated the potential connections between synesthesia and educational and vocational interests in a sample of undergraduates from Texas State University. Two-hundred and eighty participants completed an online survey, which included questions about demographics, symptoms of synesthesia, and their educational and vocational interests (measured via the Holland Occupational Themes questionnaire [Holland, 1985]). In this sample, approximately 45% (127 participants) self-reported at least one symptom of synesthesia. Participants’ data were examined using quantitative and qualitative methods. Results suggested that, in certain cases, experiences with synesthesia influenced participants’ interests and career goals. The results of this study contribute to a greater understanding of a special group of people who experience the world differently. These findings may have broader implications for educational advisement and career counseling for synesthetes.