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The different ways we see colors

Art by Grace Gill

The perception, interpretation, and opinions between individuals on the world around us change depending on past experiences, heritage, and current living conditions. Although this may apply to everything from spice tolerance to political differences, one of the most interesting is the variation of how people perceive color.

It is likely that everyone sees color the slightest bit differently. Due to the fact that color perception and color blindness is passed down genetically, the probability of variation in how each individual views color is very high. According to Psychology Today, “research has found that we experience colors differently, depending on gender, national origin, ethnicity, geographical location, and what language we speak”. In languages such as pre-modern Korean, Egyptian, Japanese, Arabic, and Vietnamese, the same word means both green and blue. However, “it is not that these languages fail to distinguish green from blue, but that they consider green and blue as two or more shades of one color,” stated Out of Frame.

abc News explained that “your eyes perceive colors differently based on color receptors in them called cones, experts say your brain is doing the legwork to determine what you're seeing”. In preschool, everyone learns how to say the colors of the rainbow and never look back. But how do we know that what one person calls the color green is what everyone considers to be the color green? What if my green is your red, or my yellow is your blue? Typically misinterpretation of color isn’t this severe, but it simply depends on how our eyes perceive light and what our brain defines each color to qualify as. In the Arctic Circle, people who live there year round have names for different colors of snow, whereas the majority of people would just see it and call it all “white”. Color association also varies, with black in most western countries being the color worn when mourning, but white and gold being more commonly worn for the same accusations in parts of East Asia and Europe.

The impact color has on an individual's emotion, preference, and opinion is almost undeniable. Mountain Vista Psychology Today claims that “how color is perceived is subjective for some, but we have colors that are widely recognized for certain things worldwide.” Warmer colors, such as red, brown, and yellow invoke feelings of comfort and hostility, whereas cooler colors such as purple and blue are known to reflect calmness and sadness. To many, the color green often stands for the environment or nature, and the human eye can see it better than any other color. According to CNN, “Its most universal interpretation conjures imagery of nature…”. English expressions such as “feeling blue” and “red with rage” both use colors to describe and express specific emotions. Due to the use of color metaphorically in these expressions, they do not have the same meaning when translated into other languages.

Color not only changes how you see, but it shifts your emotions, communication, and awareness of your surroundings. Everyone sees and interprets color a little differently, whether you are colorblind or simply speak a language where specific colors hold different meanings, there is no denying the physiological and emotional meaning color can hold in an individual’s life.

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