Implicit versus explicit interference effects in a number-color synesthete

Ilaria Berteletti, Edward M. Hubbard, Marco Zorzi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A fundamental question in the study of consciousness is the connection between subjective report and objective measures. We explored this question by testing NM, a grapheme-color synesthete, who experiences colors when viewing digits but not dot patterns. Synesthesia research has traditionally used variants of the Stroop paradigm as an objective correlate of these subjective synesthetic reports. We used both a classical synesthetic Digit Stroop task and a novel Numerosity Stroop task, in which random dot patterns were colored either congruently or incongruently with the colors NM reported for digits. We observed longer response times in the incongruent condition for both tasks, despite the fact that NM denied experiencing colors for random dot patterns, constituting a clear dissociation between subjective and objective measures of synesthetic experience. We argue that distinguishing synesthesia from learned synesthesia-like associations (pseudosynesthesia) should depend primarily on the presence of subjective reports, validated by objective measures. More generally, we suggest that consciously and unconsciously mediated interference may arise from qualitatively different mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)170-177
Number of pages8
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2010


  • Consciousness
  • Pseudosynesthesia
  • Stroop task
  • Synesthesia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neurology


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