After having a conversation with a co-worker about color perceptions, I decided to delve into it as a thought experiment. Digging around on news articles, youtube videos, and the like didn’t quite answer the question adequately. She mentioned “thinking in color,” where not only herself, but her child, attached certain colors to concepts. For example: “March is blue,” “7 is green.” We understand the fully extended idea of this type of perception as synesthesia, a synthesis of perceptions.
We have this created concept we call “colors” which are not too much more than light refracting off of objects and into the lenses of our eyes which is then interpreted as an image in our brains. Most humans perceive objects on our understanding 4-color wheel of blue, green, red, and yellow.
Industrial Psychology, especially that which words in advertising, has long understood and discovered colors to create certain reactions onto our psyche. The discussion as to why we react to colors in a certain way is debatable, and seems to vary by culture (red being royalty to some, and evil to others). It could have very early evolutionary causes, such as “red” being attributed to blood and the pain attached to when that is seen.
Now, let’s throw an even bigger monkey wrench into this concept of colors. Meet, the mantis shrimp:
This colorful creature has 16 photo-receptors in which they are able to see a broader color spectrum, as well as UV, visible and polarized light. Conceiving of the possibility of seeing different colors than we conceive of, alone, is a mind-twister. Our minds simply can not quite grasp what it means to be able to see with our eyes more than what is currently available to us.
The whole discussion begs far too many questions: Does mass have within itself that which we call “color” or is it a perceived phenomenon, something our brains merely interpret? Why is it that we attributed, as a society, certain colors to certain concepts: ex feeling blue, red means stop, orange for hazards, only girls wear pink, etc. What of synesthetes, those who see colors in response to numbers, letters, or even smells.
Penny for your thoughts? What color is this post?
Sources for more delving: