Supersenses: 5 cases of people who see and feel more than the average

January 22, 2018

Incredible but true

Can you feel the colors?

In our daily life, we use our senses to navigate the world and make decisions. From sniffing at the milk carton to see if it’s still useful to look at both sides before crossing the street to avoid a mishap, our senses are our allies.

However, some individuals take these senses matter far beyond sight. The thing is, there are people who after trying chocolate perceive an intense blue color or people who see colors where the rest of us just see shadows.

Don’t you believe me?

Check out five cases of people with supersenses that will make you envy them…or perhaps not.

1.- Concetta Antico: The tetrachromatic painter

Most of us are only able to see a certain amount of colors from our environment, which could be counted in the millions. Well, to be sincere, for most of us men there is only a bunch of colors in the world, and we will never be able to spot the difference between a “chocolate” and a “wengué” furniture color, leading us to infinity of discussions with our partners at the furniture stores.

Supersenses: 5 Cases Of People Who See And Feel More Than The Average

Now, if you think a million colors is a lot, imagine someone who can see 99 million colors more than you can. This is the case of Concetta Antico, a contemporary artist that takes full advantage of her condition, as the only tetrachromatic artist in the world.

Tetrachromacy is a genetic condition that provides for less than 1% of the world population a higher amount of receptors in their eyes, allowing them to perceive a higher amount of colors than the average human being.

When Concetta Antico sees a tree leaf, she sees more than green, as she declares “around the rim, I see orange, red or purple in the shadow, you may see dark green, but I see violet, turquoise or blue.”

Supersenses: 5 Cases Of People Who See And Feel More Than The Average
“Peacock Oil Painting” and “Eucalyptus Oil Painting” by Concetta Antico

Her works are paintings full of incredible color and brightness, and you can check them out on her website Imagine that in the beginning, her parents thought she was color blind or daltonic, as she described to them hundreds of colors only she could see!

2.- Neil Harbisson: The first cybernetically enhanced daltonic artist

Ladies and gentleman, welcome to the future: I never imagined I’d write about a cybernetically enhanced daltonic artist. This title goes to Neil Harbison, who was born with a complete lack of color perception, a condition known as achromatopsy, where his sight was limited to grayscales.

He lived like that until he received an implant connected directly to his skull 13 years ago, that now allows him to see what would be considered impossible.

Supersenses: 5 Cases Of People Who See And Feel More Than The Average

This “antenna” allows him to “hear-see” frequencies well outside our perceivable color spectrum including infrared and ultraviolet rays and also “colors” from satellite signals and external cameras, along with messages from phone calls occurring close to him.

All these signals are translated into different vibrations that reach his cranium and are interpreted by him as sounds.

Even though it’s difficult for us to imagine how this sense works to “see” or “listen,” Harbison has taken advantage of it to create paintings based in this incredible capacity, produce installations with lights and sound for our delight. He even achieves the fact that the passport office at his homeland accepted him to have his photograph taken with the antenna installed, as he claims it’s now part of himself. (For me this last thing is extraordinary, as I’ve never had a chance to have a good photo in my Passport).

Supersenses: 5 Cases Of People Who See And Feel More Than The Average

He is considered by the press as the first cyborg to ever exist, and Harbisson is nowadays one of the most renowned defenders of cybernetic prosthetics as a new way of humankind to evolve.

3.- Pharrell Williams: Synesthetic musical superstar

Synesthesia can be described as a perception of a second stimulus in one of your senses, while the central stimulus was received via another sense.

Let’s say, if someone steps on your foot and at the same time you hear a chicken clucking while there are not chickens around, it’s entirely possible that you have synesthesia. Or maybe you own a particularly violent and stealthy chicken. Of course, this chicken example was invented by yours truly.

Supersenses: 5 Cases Of People Who See And Feel More Than The Average

What is not an invention of mine is that one of the expressions of synesthesia is associated to the possibility of “seeing” particular color tones after listening to individual sounds, and is something that the great artist, composer, and producer Pharrell Williams can assure.

Even though the artist confirms he cannot really see colors when he listens to music, he is capable of hearing two sounds and associates them in his mind, and judge if they have the right “colors” to be combined harmoniously to be in the same track.

Pharrell Williams GIF

For him, synesthesia is not an ailment but significant advantage in his career. A genuinely fascinating supersense combination!

The rest of us will have to wear a pair of good headphones and hear good music while we enjoy beautiful natural scenarios to combine both senses like Pharrell does.

4.- Ingrid Carey, owner of advanced synesthesia.

Imagine you at school as a kid. Picture reading the alphabet with the other kids and suddenly when they all mentioned the letter “J,” you feel a greenish light surrounding you, and when you reach the letter “N,” you perceive the most intense brown color you’ve felt.

This is what happens to Ingrid Carey, who was a twenty years old student when this condition was identified.

As part of the different tests that were applied to her, she manifested that number eight is orange, and that the word “July” brings to her colors of greenish-blue hues.

Supersenses: 5 Cases Of People Who See And Feel More Than The Average

This was not only limited to words, letters, and sounds. She reported that shin splints after running a lot felt like the colors orange, yellow and red (yes, like the colors you see in the pain relief ointment ads when they try to describe pain visually, but she really feels those colors when it hurts).

Even further, she also “felt” combinations of colors, flavors, and odors in the sensations she reported. The chocolate flavor was of a deep, purple hue, and it made her breath “smell” like a dark blue.

Definitely, it would be quite impressive to perceive these sensations with other senses. Do you imagine what Ingrid would feel if she could taste these fantastic dishes?

5.- James Holman, the real “Bat-Man.”

Imagine you have a perfectly normal life. Furthermore, that you are so active and energetic that you become a lieutenant in the army until the day a strange disease starts ruining your joints, causing you great pain, and finally deprives you of your sight.

I guess many people would choose to stay at home, trying to recover and rest. But this was not what James Holman, a man born in Exeter, England decided to do.

Even though he received all the clinical care and benefits of a retired veteran in a military installation in a castle, routine started to become more and more difficult for him. He began to suffer more from his illness until he began to ask for permissions to leave his room at that castle in Windsor.

Why would he ask for these licenses? Well, to travel the world, of course!


And it is because, James, a brilliant man, started using a method that is almost exclusively used by some animals in the wilderness: echolocation.

The trick is efficiently smooth, yet a lot of concentration and practice is required to make it work. James would tap his cane against the ground or an object close to him, and after enough training, he was capable of noticing how the sound bounced against specific purposes, letting him “see” if the terrain was rising, there were walls, obstacles or even cliffs in his way.

With this method, wholly deprived of the sense of sight, he traveled through France, Italy, Switzerland, and Germany, even having time to write his first book “The Narrative of a Journey through France.”

These were not his last voyages, and he traveled as far as Russia and Turkey taking advantage of this prodigious talent. He was one of the first humans in records to have used echolocations, but nowadays more people use this method, using it to discover new and unusual places.

Do you think you have something similar to a supersense? Did this blog reveal to you a hidden sense you had not distinguished? Please let us know!

Mercadólogo de profesión, dibujante y adulto contemporáneo. Ama las metáforas extrañas, los silencios incómodos, y los gatos.


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