Shillington Graphic Design Blog

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Category: Colour,

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Posted: Jan 23rd 2012
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Is our perception of colour universal? Do we all see it the same way, and is it something we are born with, or something we learn?
Some of you may have seen the Beau Lotto cubes before. These are cubes, made up of smaller cubes of different colours. What we can see here is that same cube in different lighting conditions, right? If I said that in the image on the left – the one under yellow light – all of the smaller blue cubes are the same colour as the yellow cubes in the image on the right, would you believe me? If you want to see for yourself, open it up in photoshop and test it out. You'll find that they are both actually just a neutral grey. The context of the colours, whats around it and next to it, appears to influence our colour perception in ways that we cannot control. But what if language also affected our perception of colour?
Children, before they learn to speak, process colour with the left side of the brain. When we learn words, we begin to react to colour not emotionally, but intellectually - with the right side of the brain. Thats when we stop 'seeing' in a way. We allow what we 'know' about the world to influence our perception of what is really there.
Take a look at this film about the Himba tribe in northern Namibia. We have 11 or so words to describe colours: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, pink, brown, grey, black and white. We use these words to render the world around us. The Himba don't have these words, they categorise colours in a different way. The video will give you an amazing insight into how learning can affect our perception of the world around us, and how we can never be sure if we are really seeing things as they are.



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