Mental Visualizations: Colour Association

One common trick to remember things is association. To continue my series in mental visualization I am going to discuss my mind’s automatic, subconscious association of colours and numbers.

The human mind is powerful at remembering things and one of the ways it helps us remember is through association. Sometimes that association is conscious, like rhyming or song, but many times it is subconscious. One of the strongest associations in my mind is between colours and numbers.

Interchangeable Colours & Numbers

Numbers are colours. When I see numbers in my head I always picture them in a specific colour. If I remove the English symbol of a number and leave just the colour I see the same thing. This subconscious memory trick is especially helpful for remembering a long series of numbers like a phone number or bank account. In my mind’s eye, I see a series of colours and from that the numbers are assigned.

What Does it Look Like?

I am sure you are all interested in what the colours are, so have a gander.

  • 0
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9

This is in no way a perfect representation of the colours. It is really difficult to describe the colours in physical form. When I start to think about what the colours are, I almost have troubles seeing the colours.

The only number that isn’t easily described in a static graphic is zero. Zero is actually transparent, like glass. This, I am sure, has some association to the fact that zero represents nothing, therefore my colour is nothing. I should also mention that one is pure white.

Also, like my Year Loop, the numbers in my mind are always in a vast black void.

So, How Does it Work?

Well, it only works in my mind when I think about numbers. If I am looking at numbers on a page, I see them in the colour presented, but when I think about them, they are presented in their associated colour. If the writing on the page is black and it contains an eight, in my mind I will see the black writing with a brown eight in the middle.

It happens so fast, but it seems as though the numbers are stored in my brain as a colour, when I want to remember numbers, I recall a series of colours and my brain instantly translates those into numbers.

The Strongest Association: Time

Though all numbers are colour associated in my mind, time is somehow associated more strongly. I don’t really know how to explain it, maybe the time colours are brighter, as if they are generating their own light, where other numbers are just reflecting the ambient light. Either way, time is especially strongly linked to colour.

  • 2
  • :
  • 5
  • 8

When thinking about a time in my mind the colour association is so strong it almost hides the English numeric symbol. But not in a way that blurs the numbers, more that the colours are so bright (like looking into the sun) that you can’t see the shape, just the colour.

When I look at a representation of time, on a clock for instance, unlike the other numbers, the time digits are kind of more visible as their mentally associated colour. I am aware of the colour the time is being presented in, but at the same time aware of the colour association.

What Does it Say About Me?

Do I associate to colours because I have an inclination towards design? Or is it just a simpler, smaller representation to be stored in my brain? Instead of storing the complex lines and shapes of a number, my brain simply stores a colour.

It would be great is someone could explain this working of my mind to me, but until that point I am just going to write it off as another quirk complexity of the human mind.


National Geographic recently published an article titled Why Does Evolution Allow Some People to Taste Words? that mentions synesthesia. Synesthesia sounds very similar to the colour association I’ve described above.