Friday, September 4, 2009

What does color do for you?

The last couple of weeks I've been thinking about color a little differently. Usually I think about how colors "look" together or how they "look" on an individual.
But this week, partly prompted by some research for a little blurb I was writing for an email newsletter and further fueled by a funny discussion on Saturday at a social knitting gathering here, I have become fascinated with how we "feel" color! It really is a "physical" reaction we have. I'm relieved to know that studies have shown this and that I'm not (at least entirely) crazy to think my pulse raced when Martha pulled out her lap blanket on Saturday! The riot of colors was so exciting it was food for the soul. Even for those (like myself) who usually gravitate toward darker, murkier earthtones, seeing it really resonated in a way that made us all feel happy! I laugh now recalling the cackle our group of ladies made "oohing and ahhing" over which were our favorite squares.
I remembered reading years ago how a study had shown that painting prison cells pink had been demonstrated to calm violence among the inmates. And this notion of color affecting us physically & emotionally was reaffirmed this week as I read about a study of blindfolded individuals that consistently identified which hand was held over a red piece of paper and which hand was held over a blue piece of paper! The researchers attribute the results and our physical response to color to the fact that we truly "feel" the difference in the wavelengths of each color!
So now I realize that it's not just that we "see" colors differently, but we "feel" them differently too. And it must be this physical reaction that makes them so personally compelling. So next time my sister Joany rolls her eyes at me coveting another burnt orange, chartreuse or chocolate brown yarn (I'm definitely drawn to the warm colors), I can tell her it's a physical thing I can't control!
And, next time we're picking out colors to use in a fiber project, maybe we should ask ourselves how the color makes us "feel" rather than how it "looks" on us!
Happy day!
As an interesting aside....some languages only have words for 2 colors (basically black and light) into which all colors are grouped. As languages evolve and get more sophisticated, they add additional words to further break the colors out. Linguistics scholars have found that in over 80% of languages, the order in which colors are consistently added as the language evolves is as follows:

1) all seem to start with black (covers blues, purples) and light (covers whites, yellows, reds).
  • This is interesting and makes sense since the eye sees "value" (light and darkness) before it sees "hue" (colors like red, blue, etc)
2) then they add red (so languages with 3 words for color have black, light and red)
3)then they add green next and then yellow after green
4)then blue (which had been either grouped with green or black to this point) is added!
Apparently "orange" wasn't used to describe a color until the mid 20th century...until then it had been always referred to as yellow-red until it took the name of the fruit it resembled!

1 comment:

  1. Be sure to look for Oliver Sack's work on Synesthesia... most recently in his book Musicophilia. Yeah.. Colors resonate with me.