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.
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.