What colour really means

This is fascinating. From The Atlantic:

Humans make all sorts of color choices, every day. We color-code our children’s genders from birth—blue caps for boys and pink caps for girls in the hospital nursery—and paint our bedrooms sea foam green and lemon meringue yellow for serenity. We are intimately familiar with Coca-Cola’s red script, McDonald’s golden arches, and Starbucks’ green mermaid. Red means “stop” and green means “go” in contexts far away from the traffic light—using the colors on food labels has been shown to lead people to make healthier choices. This just goes to show how deeply colors can become lodged in our mind.

Though our world is awash in colors, valid empirical research on how color affects the human mind and behavior has, until recently, been severely limited. Perhaps it is because color seems frivolous—surface level, just icing on the cake. Or perhaps it is because for years scientists thought color best left to the poets. Either way, as a result, the “science” of color has ended up just above phrenology and parapsychology in the barrel of debunked pseudosciences.

But a trend has emerged in the field of behavioral science that has researchers beginning to take color seriously. Cognitive psychology posits a dual system of the mind, explains Jerald Kralik, assistant professor of psychology and brain sciences at Dartmouth University. In the first, there’s a quick response that happens in the lower levels of the mind—our gut reactions, so to speak—and then there is the second, more deliberative, thoughtful thinking that happens on top of that. Influences like color work their effects on us, “to the extent that even our highest-level cognition and intelligence are biased by these low level impressions,” Kralik says.

See also previous posts here on how colour got their names, how fireworks get their colours, and, just for fun, the colour of popular music and how Crayola get made. Oh, and don’t forget to check out this amazing episode of Radiolab, Colors.

NB: Apologies for the mixed US and UK spelling of colors, excuse me, colours, I’ve simply followed what ever spelling each source has used.

What colour really means