reviewsSome anecdotes about colour.

Every visual stimulus processed by the human perceptual system contains colour information. Colour typically exerts its influence on psychological functioning in an automatic fashion; the full process from evaluation of the colour stimulus to activation and operation of motivated behaviour typically takes place without conscious intention or awareness. Furthermore, although it is believed that some colour effects are biologically based and pancultural, it is likely that at least some colour meanings and effects are entirely learned and can vary by culture. (Andrew J.Elliot and Markus A. Maier 2007)

Colour and culture:

Place and identity, cultural geography: How important are local colors for people’s identity? Over the years we have developed our sensitivity to color. Heritage, preservation of identity and search for meaning in a wider European context are perhaps to blame for this.

Three ways to study colors of a place: 1) background colors i.e. water, trees, earth, clay etc. (landscape, nature/culture) 2) site-specific color patterns link foreground and background colors in a certain ratio. Orange rooftiles don’t reflect their background colors, yet they are specific for Holland. Another pattern can be seen in contrast and clarity of colors i.e. white window frames-dark brickwork (common color patterns of a country) 3) color incidents don’t fit within these patterns. They form an exception and are meant to do so. Their existence could kickstart a new pattern. Sometimes a whole district is given a conspicuous color to form an architectural landmark.

Three fundamental aspects of place as a meaningful location: 1) location (coordinates) 2) locale (setting for social relations, e.g. architecture, political, gender and economic settings let people consume and produce meaning) 3) sense of place (attachment to place; what’s it like to be there, the experience) Forces of globalisation have eroded local cultures and produced homogenous spaces.

In Lower Harlem and South Bronx Puertoricans ‘replicated’ buildings from home. These homes were idealised through use of colors like coral (?), turqouise and lemon yellow. A space becomes a space by giving it your own identity. National identities are communicated to the rest of the world through postage stamps, money,national stadia , parliament buildings etc. Colour plays an important role in this.


Perceiving colour in the Northern hemisphere:

Extreme natural ambient light reduction, in both energy and range of wavelength spectrum, occurs during the winter season at very high latitudes (above the Arctic Circle or 66320 North) that in turn results in increased exposure to artificial lighting. In contrast, during the summer months, the sun remains above the horizon and there is no darkness or night. Little is known about these extreme changes in light exposure on human visual perception. Measuring color discriminations with the FM100 Test revealed that Norwegians born above the Arctic Circle were less sensitive to yellow-green, green, and green-blue spectrum differences whereas they were more sensitive to hue variations in the purple range than individuals born below the Arctic Circle. Additionally, it was found that the Norwegian individuals born above the Arctic Circle and during autumn showed an overall decrease in color sensitivity, whereas those born in the summer showed a relative increase. All participants were adults and their color vision was tested in the same location (i.e., in Tromsø at 69.7 North). These findings are consistent with the idea that there is a measurable impact on colour vision as adults of the photic environment that individuals born above the Arctic Circle and in the autumn experienced during infancy, namely a reduction in exposure to direct sunlight and an increase in exposure to twilight and artificial lighting.( Latitude-of-birth and season-of-birth effects on human color vision in the Arctic Bruno Laeng ,Tim Brennen, A˚ ke Elden, Helle Gaare Paulsen, Aniruddha Banerjee, Robert Lipton)

Healing effects of colour:

Chromotherapy uses colored light for healing. The present study assessed the physiological effects of blue and red light in normal volunteers, as these colors were believed to have opposite physiological effects. Fifteen male volunteers (age range 17 to 29 years) were studied in two sessions each. Each session lasted for 40 min, with a test period of 30 min, preceded and followed by two 5-min periods without colored light. Throughout both sessions, subjects lay supine with eyes closed. The room was illuminated with ordinary light during the pre and post periods of both sessions. During the test period, blue light was used for one session, while red light was used for the other. The heart rate, skin resistance, finger plethysmogram amplitude, breath rate, blood pressure and electroencephalogram (EEG) were measured. There was a significant reduction in the breath rate during exposure to blue light and the diastolic blood pressure reduced immediately after exposure to blue light, compared to the preceding period (t-test for paired data). The results suggest that blue light reduces physiological arousal, supporting the claim that blue light can be used to induce physiological rest. Red light did not have a stimulating effect in this study. (Psychophysiological Effects of Colored Light Used in Healing 2006 Naveen K. Visweswaraiah and Shirley Telles Swami Vivekananda Yoga Research Foundation, Bangalore, India)

It is important to take into account that there are multiple aspects concerned with coloured light such as hue, saturation and luminance. Gamgöz et al. (2001) found that luminance has the strongest influence on colour emotions followed by saturation. Brighter colours (higher luminance) appeared to be more pleasant, less arousing and less dominant than darker colours. (lower luminance) Saturated colours appear to be more arousing and more dominant than less saturated colours. Although hue appeared weak on emotions, a consistent support for a relationship for hue on pleasure was found. The most pleasant colours were blue, blue-green, green, purple-blue, red-purple and purple whereas red-yellow, green-yellow and yellow were the least pleasant. People often associate a certain colour with moods (Bronkers, 2009). Ryberg (1991, as cited in Ståhl, et al., 2005) categorized affective beliefs related to colours and found that blue stands for intuition, idealism, serenity and concentration, green is associated with dream, hope and sensitivity, yellow with intellect, logic, communication and curiosity, purple with ecstasy, power and artistry and red with instincts, impulsive, strength and courage (Bronkers, 2009). In addition, Kaya and Epps (2004) studied the associations of colour based on past experiences, by matching colours to a situational context. It was found that blue reminds people of terms like cool, calm, ocean, water, and relaxing, whereas green is associated with relaxation, calmness, comfort, peace, nature, spring, grass and health. Yellow was found to stand for happiness, excitement, sunflowers, summer and energetic, purple is associated with sadness, children, power, boredom and spirituality and red reminds people of passion, love, blood, evil and danger. These associations are personal, which means that everyone can have a different reaction, however, some associations are more likely to occur than others. (Relaxation in Relation to Control and Coloured Light, Journey through colour space,Koen Olijve,Christian Willemse,Meriete Horst,Marlies Wesselink, Tu/e  27 December 2010)