Does every culture see colors the same way?

Happy Monday!  I always run across such amazing posts on other peoples’ science blogs, so I figured I’d start sharing some of those posts with you all.  Here’s a really fascinating post about color.  The link is below if you want to read the entire thing (it’s a two-part post, sort of long but totally worth a full read).

The crayola-fication of the world: How we gave colors names, and it messed with our brains (part I) | Empirical Zeal.

For those of you with less time, here’s a quick recap: the blogger starts of with an example of how there are many cultures around the world that don’t distinguish between blue and green, usually having only one word to describe the entire spectrum from blue to green.  This begs the question: what really is color?  Is it only a construct of each individual culture, or do the definitions of colors go deeper, fitting into a more universal set of laws?  The author highlights a research study where scientists asked people from 110 different cultures to identify the hue of 400 different colors, and they found something truly amazing.  It seems that most cultures evolved along a specific set of boundaries for defining colors.  You start with a black and white world, where everything falls either into a category of dark or light colors.  Then, reds and yellows separate away from the “white” category to give 3 colors (red/yellow together as one color).  After that, blues and greens (together as one color) break away from blacks.  Eventually, yellow can split off from red, and green from blue.  Not every culture around the world has followed this linear trajectory, but five out of six languages follow that route.  What does that mean about color?  The emerging picture here is that colors are somewhat basic categories that humans gravitate toward, regardless of cultural differences.

Seriously though, this is just a poor recap of someone else’s very thoroughly researched blog post: if you’re even a little bit interested, do him a favor, and check it out at the source 🙂


Let me know what you think: too simple or too detailed? Any suggestions or comments about this post or for future topics? Feedback if it was "just right" is also appreciated!

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