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What is Spacial Sequence Synesthesia?

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Instructor: Michael Quist

Michael has taught college-level mathematics and sociology; high school math, history, science, and speech/drama; and has a doctorate in education.

Spatial-Sequence Synesthesia (SSS) is a rare condition that impacts how the brain organizes information. Explore the definition of SSS, its symptoms, and potential causes of the phenomena. Updated: 12/21/2021

Spacial-Sequence Synesthesia?

If I were to ask you where six o'clock is in the air around you, you would probably give me a rather odd look. Some people, however, have a very definite idea of exactly where six o'clock is. In fact, the entire span of the clock extends around them like a ring, each hour situated in its own place on the ring.

Spacial-sequence synesthesia (also called SSS, sequence-space synesthesia) is a condition where an individual senses a physical position of the objects in an ordinal list, automatically and consistently knowing where each element is. If you've ever used the loci memory device, you formed a mental connection between familiar objects or places and items on a list. For example, if you can visualize your living room, you can visualize one of the memory items at key locations in the living room. To remember the list, you mentally glance around the room, noting the items where you have ''placed'' them. Similarly, some people mentally place the months of the year on their knuckles, spaces between the knuckles representing the months with fewer days.

Those who experience SSS automatically have list items connected to locations in their minds. Whether they use visual cues or merely sense positions, the location is very real to them, and they can easily access information by visualizing this location.

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  • 0:04 Spacial-Sequence Synesthesia?
  • 1:30 SSS Symptoms
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SSS Symptoms

People experiencing the spacial-sequence synesthesia effect automatically know the location of each member of an ordinal list, but the way this knowledge is experienced varies from person to person. For example, sometimes a person will visualize item locations with their mind's eye. The seemingly physical location of that list item is visible in their imagination. For other people, the location is more of a presence; that is, they can tell if they are facing toward it or away from it, but they don't automatically visualize it. So this would mean that you might mention that you're ''walking toward Monday'' when you move across the room, but ''walking toward Friday'' if you're headed in the opposite direction. Both locations are real to you, even though you do not actually see anything in their position, rather like sensing the warmth of a stove with your eyes closed.

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