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Personality traits in people with synaesthesia: do synaesthetes have an atypical personality profile?

Banissy, Michael J.; Holle, Henning; Cassell, Josephine; Annett, Lucy; Tsakanikos, Elias; Walsh, Vincent; Spiller, Mary Jane; Ward, Jamie


Michael J. Banissy

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Dr Henning Holle
Reader in Psychology / Leader of Cognitive and Clinical Neuroscience group (

Josephine Cassell

Lucy Annett

Elias Tsakanikos

Vincent Walsh

Mary Jane Spiller

Jamie Ward


People with synaesthesia not only have – by definition – unusual experiences (e.g., numbers triggering colour), they also have a different cognitive profile (e.g., in terms of their memory and perceptual abilities) and a bias towards certain interests and activities (e.g., towards the arts). However, virtually nothing is known about whether synaesthetes have an atypical personality profile. In this study, a standard measure of personality was administered (Big Five Inventory) along with two questionnaire measures of empathy. Synaesthetes, relative to demographically matched controls, reported higher levels of ‘Openness to Experience’ which is known to be related to imagination and artistic tendencies. They also reported higher levels of ‘Fantasizing’ on one of the empathy measures, which is conceptually related to Openness, although their self-reported empathy did not differ in other respects. In addition, synaesthetes reported lower levels of Agreeableness which we did not predict in advance.


Banissy, M. J., Holle, H., Cassell, J., Annett, L., Tsakanikos, E., Walsh, V., …Ward, J. (2013). Personality traits in people with synaesthesia: do synaesthetes have an atypical personality profile?. Personality and individual differences, 54(7), 828-831.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Dec 13, 2012
Online Publication Date Jan 19, 2013
Publication Date 2013-05
Journal Personality and Individual Differences
Print ISSN 0191-8869
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 54
Issue 7
Pages 828-831
Keywords Synaesthesia/synesthesia; Personality; Empathy; Art; Imagination
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