For all who are unaware, synesthesia is a condition in the brain where two or more senses are connected; for example being able to see sound or hear color. Of course they do not actually see color or hear sound, but their brain connects their sense, so they attribute certain sense to other senses.

Is it possible for evolution to favor this condition and if so, is it possible for it to become not a condition, but a feature?

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    $\begingroup$ The question doesn't have any meaning. Synaesthesia is what happens when your brain responds to a stimulus in a non-standard way. Whatever the normal response is to light or sound in your aliens' brains, then it's not synaesthesia, by definition. $\endgroup$
    – Mike Scott
    Oct 7, 2016 at 15:37
  • $\begingroup$ It might possible for humans to evolve this condition in the future. After all, we have the ability to model something in 3-d in our brains, so that we can, for example, carve out a tool from rock of any shape that we can imagine. It is not apparent that any animal can do this. What else might we do in the future? $\endgroup$
    – kingledion
    Oct 7, 2016 at 15:43
  • $\begingroup$ @MikeScott while nonstandard, by definition, it would still be applicable. We are not talking about normal Synestesia, but a naturally evolved version of it. Taste buds have no ability to sense light, but the ability to use them to describe a color to others, and not just yourself is this Synestesia OP wants to know about. Sure it will be standard for these ailiens, but its still "one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway", just that everyone has the same thing. $\endgroup$
    – Ryan
    Oct 7, 2016 at 16:01
  • $\begingroup$ Humans have evolved with brains that some of us can experience synaesthesia. Sapient aliens will have evolved brains that are, probably, just as likely create synaesthesia in some members of their species. It's probably a side-effect of naturally evolved brains. Evolution will only favour synaesthesia if it confers a survival advantage. $\endgroup$
    – a4android
    Oct 8, 2016 at 5:38

1 Answer 1


The only way I see evolution favoring synesthesia is if it helped with survival.

Chromestheisa is the association of sounds with colors. These colors can come in several different ways including height width and depth. This might be able to help visualize where a predator or where prey are or even who they are.

Let’s say you hear a twig break. With your ears you can figure out the direction, but a lot of the nuance of the sound is generally lost to the untrained ear. Was it a big creature? A small one? Do you know which species it was?

As the sound information went into a brain, the signals get interpreted and some visual representation appears in front of the creature ideally giving it a bit more information than just with listening. Some of the small things that might have been missed listening, such as leaves crackling might be represented in the shape.

If the surrounding creatures were very similar, for both prey and predator, this could easily help you not becoming a meal when trying to find a meal.


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