Is attention essential for inducing synesthetic colors? Evidence from oculomotor distractors

Tanja C.W. Nijboer*, Stefan Van der Stigchel

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


    In studies investigating visual attention in synesthesia, the targets usually induce a synesthetic color. To measure to what extent attention is necessary to induce synesthetic color experiences, one needs a task in which the synesthetic color is induced by a task-irrelevant distractor. In the current study, an oculomotor distractor task was used in which an eye movement was to be made to a physically colored target while ignoring a single physically colored or synesthetic distractor. Whereas many erroneous eye movements were made to distractors with an identical hue as the target (i.e., capture), much less interference was found with synesthetic distractors. The interference of synesthetic distractors was comparable with achromatic non-digit distractors. These results suggest that attention and hence overt recognition of the inducing stimulus are essential for the synesthetic color experience to occur.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number21
    JournalJournal of Vision
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2009


    • Attention
    • Oculomotor capture
    • Synesthesia


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