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lrifkin's picture

"In Red We See..."

I have been thinking about color perception all week! I read an article in the New York Times titled “How Do We See Red? Count The Ways” which discussed human perception of color. The article notes that different colors can hold unique meanings for different individuals. It also explained that each color can hold multiple meanings for one person. The piece, which was written just before Valentine’s Day, focused on the color red. Natalie Angier, the author, wrote
In red we see shades of life, death, fury, shame, courage, anguish, pride, and the occasional overuse of exfoliants designed to combat the signs of aging. Red is bright and bold and has a big lipsticked mouth, through which it happily speaks out of all sides at once. Yoo-hoo! Yodels red, come close, have a look. Stop right there, red amends, one false move and you’re dead.
Aside from my fascination with the human, and animal, ability to associate meaning with color, I was intrigued by the discrepancies involved with color perception. More clearly, the notion that although (assuming we are healthy) we are all born with the same cones and rods in our eyes, we can each still perceive red differently. While I might find a red door to be warm and welcoming, one of my peers may feel as though it is a sign to stay away. This led me to question whether we are all even seeing the same colors at all. When I see red, and my roommate sees red, is it possible that her version of red is my orange? As was considered in the “Hearing Colors” post which I am replying to, I have come to question whether our sensory perception is meant to be separate, or whether all of our senses are designed to work together in order to define our experience of various inputs.

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