Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Favorite Color

This episode was inspired by a rant on Dan Piraro's BizarroBlog. He apparently is not fond of teal. I can't see spending so much time writing about a color, but then again, I'm not a visual artist. I'm word guy, so I'm more likely to go off on a rant about how people can't figure out how to use your and you're, not to mention there, their and they're.

I have a theory about color perception that I think makes the whole discussion of favorite colors moot. Color is simply how our brains perceive different wavelengths of light. There is no evidence that we all perceive colors the same way, and in fact there's evidence (color-blind people) that people perceive color very differently. We all agree that an orange is orange, because that's what we all call the wavelength of light that reflects off an orange. But it's quite possible that the color I perceive the orange to be, you would perceive as blue. Neither of us would be right or wrong, but if we saw the world through each other's visual cortex (I think that's were this color perception happens, but I could be wrong), we would freak out. The colors would probably be all mixed up. Or just some of the colors would be mixed up and others might look the same. The chance that we would both perceive all the wavelengths the same way seems remote to me. So even if you say you like magenta and I say I like teal, we both might be perceiving the same favorite "color" but calling it different names (because it's attached to different things).

Now, artists and designers are probably wondering if color perception is so random from person to person, how can the color wheel work? How can some colors always work together and others not? Well, our brains might be wired to like certain combinations of wavelengths, regardless of how we perceive the individual colors. Kind of like how even tone deaf people can tell the difference between harmonious and discordant music.

And how is green always soothing and orange always energetic if people are not perceiving them the same way? Maybe that's an evolutionary trait, where over the eons we've come to identify the wavelength that comes off leaves as restful, and the wavelength that comes off fire as fiery.

I think I should probably point out here that I was not high when I wrote this.


Black Who? said...

Chartreuse is not a “wavelength.” It’s a philosophy.

shipping troll said...

I said the same thing about color perception in a grammar school art class and got sent to the principal's office for being a smartass. I also wanted to know how we know that dogs supposedly can't see color. I mean has anyone actually wired dogs eyes into a humane brain and looked through them? And what about the myth that a horse perceives things as 10x bigger that a human? Simply because it's eyeballs are bigger? I don't believe it.