Ratatouille and psychology?!

In this blog post I am going to explain how the movie Ratatouille uses the Cognitive Psychological concept of synesthesia. This condition involves someone’s perception of different stimuli. This happens when you experience one stimulus and your response to the stimulus matches a different type of stimulus. For example listening to music and seeing colors. People with this condition can vary greatly, there are many different combinations of the senses that people can experience. The most popular form is the combination of letters and colors or color patterns. Some believe that people with this condition are better at distinguishing between different colors and smells. Synesthesia positively influences memory and creativity, this is thought because they can better relate two concepts. Because of this, it is more common for artists and poets to have this condition. “Synesthesia can be associative, so senses are connected and associated in a person’s mind, or projective, when the images and colors and projected into reality” (psychology today).  A very different type of this condition is Mirror-touch synesthesia. This is when the person sees someone else experience a physical sensation and they feel it too as if it was happening to them.

An investigation in the University of California proved that this is a real phenomenon and not caused my memory associations from childhood or metaphorical speech. Color- number synesthesia is when people associate a number with a certain color or color pattern. This study proposed that color- number synesthesia is caused by a strong connection between the color and number areas at different stages in processing. This investigation says that “there may be cross wiring between the brain regions that represent abstract concepts, which would explain the link between creativity, metaphor and synesthesia” (journal of consciousness studies). The study also believes that this condition can be genetic.


In the animated children’s movie ratatouille a rat dreams to be a chef. Throughout the movie you watch the rat go on an adventure and eventually become a head chef in a famous French restaurant that he opens. In the beginning of the movie the rat is used to eating trash and he sneaks into a house and tries human food for the first time. While he is eating the food, the movie shows colors swirling around the screen and music playing that coordinated with the colors. This was supposed to represent the new flavors that he was tasting. As he tries different foods, the flavors have their own color and sound. This creative way of portraying him exploring a new side of food is actually a good representation of projective synesthesia. This is very surprising because kid’s movies usually do a poor job of representing psychological conditions. For example, short term memory loss in “Finding Nemo”. If you are ever trying to explain this psychological experience I recommend using this scene from the movie.

Image result for ratatouille synesthesia

Overall I think that this is a very interesting psychological condition. I wish that more research was invested in this because it could be so informative about how people perceive things differently. I also find it especially interesting because synesthesia isn’t caused by memory associations and perception is largely believed to be influenced by past experiences.

My sources:

Synesthesia background



Synesthesia study https://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/imp/jcs/2001/00000008/00000012/1244


12 thoughts on “Ratatouille and psychology?!

  1. rpauley

    This is such a fun way to look at synesthesia! The example of the food being associated with bursting colors almost makes me think about when movies or TV shows depict kissing with huge fireworks. I don’t know that that really fits with synesthesia, but it does seem like an interesting parallel to the way it’s shown in Ratatouille. Honestly, I wish I had synesthesia, it would be so cool to have that kind of connection or experience with different modalities!

  2. ejones9

    Very interesting! I love how you tied such a difficult and advanced aspect of cognitive psychology to a well known, easy to understand example. If I’m ever trying to explain the concept of synesthesia to a kid, I’ll make sure to reference Ratatouille lol.

  3. rgallahan

    I really liked reading this! I know the other comments mention it, but it’s true, this is a great example of how synesthesia works and it is easy to understand. I also like the little snippet video you included, incase people have not seen it. I also liked how you went a step further and acknowledged other films misrepresentation of cognitive principles. Good job!

  4. awaltrip

    I had no idea that there were that many types of synesthesia. Synesthesia has been a hard idea for me to comprehend in class, now having a visual representation of this phenomenon I feel like I understand it better. I will definitely have to watch Ratatouille with my little cousin this summer.

    1. victoriarulapaugh

      I felt a very similar way as you did! I had no idea there were all of these forms of Synesthesia. The more I read about Synesthesia, the more I can comprehend it. This example was amazing honestly and I feel like I understand it enough to give an example of my own. I find this concept s entertaining, only because I had never really heard about it before I took cognitive psychology. I am glad we feel the same way! Great blog by the way!!

  5. chooker

    Before this class I did not know what synesthesia was. Let alone there was multiple types of synesthesia. Being able to connect synesthesia to one of my favorite things which are Disney movies, really helped my understanding of how synesthesia works. Like when he sees all these different colors when he took a bite of food, I thought it was for visual effects only and not that people actually have this happening to them.

  6. vleonled

    Relating synesthesia back to Ratatouille makes me think about how the media uses cognitive concepts! The use of cognitive psychology and being more aware of it in the media would be interesting to interpret. Being more conscious of how it is presented, I believe, would bring more awareness to a person’s own cognitive ability and how they view the world.

  7. kownbey

    …Wow. This is seriously amazing. Although at first I wasn’t entirely “buying” the argument, the cute little gif you added helped me visualize it more! If Disney did this on purpose, kudos to them. I agree that sometimes Disney (and most movies for that matter) can do a poor job in representing most psychological conditions. However, I think synesthesia is pretty cool and definitely deserves to be studied more. Good job, this was a really fun post.

  8. ccragun

    This is such a great example! When watching these movies growing up you never really think of what other meanings there could be. When I’ve watched this movie before I never thought about there being any deeper meaning to it other than him just trying new things, even now I didnt think of it until seeing this post. I love the connection between the two youve made, I’ll have to see if I can find anything else like this in other kids movies!

  9. carmennichols

    I absolutely love this movie and I love how you were able to connect synesthesia to it. I wasn’t quite sure of what to make about Ratatouille and psychology, because I never really paid that much attention to it, but it makes so much sense. I love the scene where Remy is trying to get his brother to enjoy the food for once and all the different flavors are expressed through colors. Love the GIF by the way. It wasn’t until you posted this that I realized the direct comparison between this and synesthesia. The cheese represents a more mellow and calm reaction, while the grape represents a lively and vivacious reaction. When the two were combined, it made an even bigger reaction.

    The fact that Disney was able to slide in this reference to psychology is the best part about it. Remy had such an incredible gift in that he was able to connect to food on an entirely different level than the rest of us. It’s interesting to think that some people, or animals, have that sort of gift. There was another post that talked about synesthesia and I think it’s crazy how it’s able to be applied to so many different things. Whether it’s phobias or Disney movies. Great post!

    1. cbilly Post author

      I am glad you enjoyed it! I honestly have no idea how I remembered it either! haha! I feel like Disney is always trying to add more complex concepts or adult jokes that just go completely over our heads as kids. It is funny how you never notice them until you go back and watch them at an older age.

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