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.

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What colour really means

Why do broken escalators throw us off balance?

From the Atlantic:

The escalators on the D.C. Metro are very tall and they are always breaking. This sucks a little if you are just lazy like me, it sucks a lot if you’re on crutches or you have a suitcase. But even when you know the escalator is broken, and expect it not to be moving, for many people, there’s still a moment of disorientation when you step on and start climbing, a weird imbalance that doesn’t happen with equally motionless stairs. But a broken escalator is stairs. Hence the mystery.

Why do broken escalators throw us off balance?

Why labels work (if you’re not paying attention)

This idea is not new. Study after study reveals so-called connoisseurs are easily fooled by the context of the experience, whether that’s wine experts served cheap wine in expensive looking bottles, or art historians fooled by forgeries with convincing paperwork. But it makes for a cracking overview:

What does it mean for wine that presentation so easily trumps the quality imbued by being grown on premium Napa land or years of fruitful aging? Is it comforting that the same phenomenon is found in food and classical music, or is it a strike against the authenticity of our enjoyment of them as well? How common must these manipulations be until we concede that the influence of the price tag of a bottle of wine or the visual appearance of a pianist is not a trick but actually part of the quality?

Read the article here.

Why labels work (if you’re not paying attention)