An Array of Colors

Thursday’s presentations were very enjoyable (thanks for the pizza, Angela!) and also quite thought-provoking. As noted in a previous blog entry, the color purple has polarizing effects. My research seemed to indicate it was unique in this aspect, but as the presentations continued I realized that most colors have the same sort of polarizing quality to them.

For example, Amy, Kevin, and Rachel’s presentation showed that yellow can connote warmth and welcome as well as cowardice and frustration. They used the term “bipolar” to refer to yellow and other colors. They also noted that yellow is a staple in feng shui, as it can compensate for low light, but in the fashion industry is seen as very unstable. Jessica, Rachel and Joanna found in their presentation that pink can cause both a calming effect and can incite hostility. In this case, they noted variables including the length of exposure, and perhaps more tellingly, the exact hue.

Combining these findings with the discussions surrounding the use of the color pink over the years — as it progressed from denoting masculinity to femininity, among other things — and they variations surrounding U.S. political parties’ use of the colors blue and red, I can only believe that colors are more subjective than most people realize.

Some studies conducted seem to show an innate reaction to color. For example, a University of Chicago study showed that yellow made babies cry. Yet, at the same time, we find contradictions such as the meanings of red and black between Eastern and Western cultures. Some Eastern cultures use red to denote purity, while we see red as a passionate color. Black means death to us, but means life in other parts of the world. It seems to me that our perception of color has more to do with “nurture” than we ever thought. At the same time, it is interesting to note that their are “nature” aspects to the situation. For example, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that, in the two examples above, the colors fell at opposite ends of a continuum that runs along the SAME variable. We seem to think pure hues like black and white have something to do with the most pure values — life and death. That perception, perhaps, transcends cultural boundaries.

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