Reacting to Color


Reacting to Color

Section I
No one knows when we started using color, but we think that ancient cultures may have used colors to symbolize specific things. For instance, we believe that the Cherokee Indians used blue to symbolize sadness – something that we might recognize today from the expression ‘feeling blue’. But research shows us that each culture had a different system for color use. In other words, the people chose what the colors represented – blue in one culture could mean the opposite in another.

Section II
People often choose colors that are new to them. Studies in history suggest that new colors quickly became popular, probably because they were different. To take a more recent example, the first mass-produced cars were all black. When different colored paint was developed, people chose those colors because they were new. The same thing happened when color was introduced to other materials, such as plastic. The first color televisions didn’t have very realistic colors, but almost everyone preferred them to black and white.

Section III
Colors also affect us on a deeper level. Experiments have shown that colors can have a physical effect on us. For example, red is said to make our breathing and heartbeat faster, and yellow makes our metabolism faster. On the other hand, blue can make our bodies release chemicals that calm us down, and green can have a similar relaxing effect.

Section IV
Perhaps there is an important reason for our reaction to color, however. Research suggests that over the years, we have learned to recognize various colors as a warning. If a primitive man cut his hand and saw his blood, the red color truly represented danger – it told him to do something about it or he could die. Similarly, he would not eat meat if it was blue or green – something tells us that green or blue meat is bad. This is an experiment you can try for yourself with food coloring. Try serving a meal to your friends with the potatoes or rice colored blue. You know that the food is harmless, but your guests will probably not eat it. And when they refuse the food, they are using a universal ability that humans have developed over thousands of years.