The Color Series #003 — “What’s your Favorite Color?”

“What’s your favorite color?” It’s a question everybody has been asked at least once in their lifetime. Everybody has certain colors they are most fond of and enjoy, more than likely at one time have may have asked yourself:

“WHAT is My Favorite Color? And WHY Do I Like Certain Colors ?”

Studies have shown that brain receptors affect color choice in humans. We usually prefer certain colors depending on the environment in which we live, the weather, and the amount of light reflected from different objects, and sometimes we remain interested in one color for a long time or lose interest in another color

Interestingly, researchers have also found that Japanese color preferences were different from American preferences, suggesting a cultural influence on color preference.

Colors influence object preferences in many situations in modern life, for example house paint, clothes, and furniture. Our individual preference for a particular color associated with these objects (a living room wall or an automobile) will be produced and reinforced by the positive feedback associated with the object and the color it has. Everyone has a somewhat different life experience, and so as people increasingly experience pleasure in something they bought in a particular color, they will tend to chose similar objects in the future with the same color. This leads to a self perpetuating situation.

Why Do Humans Have “Favorite” Colors?

One possible explanation is that we’ve evolved to prefer colors that our ancient ancestors associated with survival, safety and health. Among adults, bluish hues tend to be more popular than yellowish brown ones, which might be because blue is associated with water and clear skies, while yellows and browns convey illness, human waste, and decay.

Consistent with this evolutionary idea is that, already by just a few months of age, babies are picky about colors, preferring to gaze at brighter colors like blue and red rather than duller ones such as brown.

However, our life experiences and the culture we grow up in are also likely to play a large role in our color preferences. There’s evidence, for example, that our emotional reactions to objects and symbols can sway our preferences – the color of our favourite football team, for instance, or a favourite piece of clothing.

Would you drink brown tomato juice?

If given a choice, most likely you would refuse brown tomato juice in favor of the same stuff doped with an artificial chemical that stains the juice bright red. Even though you know that the brilliant red color of tomatoes fades with time after caning, and you know the red colored artificial chemical does nothing for taste or nutrition, you can’t help yourself from consuming the adulterated juice instead of the faded colored juice in its natural state. Is this rational?

Color preferences are deeply rooted emotional responses that seem to lack any rational basis, yet the powerful influence of color rules our choices in everything from the food we eat and the clothes we wear to the cars we buy. For some people, owning a green car is unthinkable. These shoppers will gladly pay hundreds of dollars more to obtain the vehicle in a different color, or they will reject the green car and select an entirely different automobile in a color they favor. We all do this even though the color has absolutely no influence on the performance of the automobile. Yet oddly, someone else will feel exactly the opposite about buying a green car. These individuals will gladly pay a premium to purchase a vehicle in the shade of green they adore. We like to think of ourselves as being rational, but in fact we are ruled by the unconscious and mysterious power of color. Where do our color preferences come from?

In an essay in 1973, Biologist Theodosius Dobzhansky, famously observed that "nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution." Psychologists Stephen Palmer and Karen Schloss of UC Berkeley, apply this viewpoint to the question of color preference in an article published in 2010 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. They tested the theory that human color preference is adaptive; that is, people are more likely to survive and reproduce successfully if they are attracted to objects with colors that "look good" to them, and they will avoid objects with colors that "look bad" to them. The idea is that the more experience-based feedback that a person receives about a particular color that is associated with a positive experience, the more the person will tend to like that color. They proposed that in general, people should favor colors associated with clear sky and clean water (blue and cyans for example) and be repulsed by colors associated with negative reactions (brown, for example, which is associated with rotting food and feces.)

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