Please Explain: Emotion and Color

Friday, February 20, 2009

Feeling Blue? Green with envy? Why not try putting on some rose-colored glasses. On this weeks Please Explain learn how color can have a tremendous effect on your mood. Dr. Andrew J. Elliot studies how we respond to color at the University of Rochester. Dr. David Brainard is professor of psychology and studies human vision and color perception at the University of Pennsylvania.


Dr. David Brainard

Comments [34]

Linda Griggs from Lower East Side, Manhattan

I saw a "chromatherapy" bath kit the other day and decided I could do the same thing with food coloring, bath salts and perfume.

Works GREAT.

Feb. 23 2009 11:27 AM
paul from Leonia NJ

I always wondered if there could be a 4th or 5th primary color, something which never existed before?

One listener mentioned women have a 4th rod, does this mean that they might be able to possibly see such a new hue if it cold ever exist?

Or would this mean the white light would actually require to be different, not inffered light however to see a forth primary hue a new type of light source is required?

Feb. 20 2009 01:56 PM
Bev Miller from Tuxedo, NY

Color makes me happy.
I am wondering if there is any basis to this. When I look at color I can literally feel my neurons firing. I tend to surround myself with bright color-- my clothing, colored file folders at work, etc.

Feb. 20 2009 01:55 PM

What are optical migrain auras?

Feb. 20 2009 01:52 PM
Scott_A from Astoria

Do you have time to explain magenta to the listenters? (it has no separate wavelength, but rather, is an artifact of the way our neurons sum different wavelengths)

Feb. 20 2009 01:51 PM
Amy from Manhattan

OK, color's an illusion, but it's based on a reality, right? Wavelength & frequency are real properties of light, & color is our perception of it?

Feb. 20 2009 01:50 PM
Sarah from nj from hackettstown nj

Woud love you to do a show on synesthesia. Having a son who is a synesthete, i can assure you it's a fascinating topic for a show.

Feb. 20 2009 01:50 PM
Jack from Brooklyn

Olafur Eliasson's work really does an excellent job of challenging the concept of colors and how they exits/interact.

Feb. 20 2009 01:48 PM
randy from Brooklyn

What about fatigue and color vision? It seems clear to me that viewing/matching colors under artificial light for long periods of time causes a deterioration of color perception. Wouldn't that mean that there is a range of color perception acuity based on a whole range of environmental and physical context? It is frustrating to hear color blindness referenced when it seems clear that there is a much more complex range of abilities.

Feb. 20 2009 01:46 PM
Lance from Manhattan

Like one of the callers, I've noticed that one of my eyes sees things more red and the other more green. I can see the difference by looking at the world with one eye open then changing to looking with the other eye.

Feb. 20 2009 01:44 PM
Marianne from Manhattan

Like the current caller, my teen-aged daughter has a different color shift in her two eyes. She will be happy to know that someone else has the same experience!

Feb. 20 2009 01:43 PM
rachel from Stamford

I have heard through my artistic career that men tend to be deficient in seeing reds & blues is that true? j

painter & designer

Feb. 20 2009 01:41 PM
prat from nyc

I did psycology in college and now am a Fashion designer by profession
I grew up in India. My Dad painted got our house painted a shade of jade/aqua. People always made fun of the color or would say - oh you live in that green house. Nobody else's house had that color.The building is still jade.
While I hated that color, I find myself constantly picking shades of jade or aqua in my color palette at work or when I paint or when I make pottery or when I paint furniture, It si uncanny how I get drawm to that color that i hated so much.
I feel that what you are conditioned as a child also has a part to do with how you percieve and own colors as a part of your life.

Feb. 20 2009 01:39 PM
Dave from Brooklyn

I've heard that a very small amount of people have a fourth cone in their eyes and can see more colors than those with 3 cones. Is this true? How uncommon is it if true?

Feb. 20 2009 01:37 PM
Sarah Lowengard from New York City

regarding the color vision problems you were discussing in the last segment: there are additional complications based on what we call colors. My 'Nile green' may be your 'turquoise.' But not only can one color have several names, and the shift can be the result of foreign interactions or inexplicable change over time. The example I often use for that is the color known in French as 'aurore.' The term now generally refers to a yellowish red (the color of well-made cream of tomato soup). In the 18th century, it was a pinky-golden color. (The term 'Pink' is another example as it did not mean specifically light red until the mid 18th century but referred to a shade of other colors. Brown pink is well known to historians of painting techniques but it was possible to have 'sky blue pink' too.)

Feb. 20 2009 01:36 PM
T.L.L. from Manhattan

listening to your comments on Eskimo's and that they have many words for the "color" of snow, I think that their vocabulary actually defines the kind of snow from many kinds of ways. In a similar way the Hawaiians have many words for the kinds of rain.

Question: how do we see color in dreams? (I have read that if people have only black and white tv's they dream in black and white, and now that color tv's are widely used that people dream in color)

Feb. 20 2009 01:36 PM
Frazier from Brooklyn

As a colorblind designer and photographer, I found it interesting that at some point in my career I stopped freely telling people I was colorblind, effectively making it my dirty little secret. On that note I have two questions for your guests should they be able to get to them.

First, being colorblind I find that in conversation where I would be pointing something out to someone I rarely use colors as descriptors. More often I attend to contrast and pattern, especially in my photography. Any info on how people emotionally react to colors if they have an issue perceiving color in the first place.

Second, I have what seems to be better than average night vision. Is it possible that where I am deficient in cones because of my colorblindness, that I have an excess of rods.

Feb. 20 2009 01:35 PM
Scott from Cambridge, MA

I'm generally a morose person so I mostly wear grey colored clothes. But I wish I was a happier person, and so I think it's why my favorite artists are those like Matisse or Rothko who use bright, beautiful colors for abstract purposes.

Feb. 20 2009 01:35 PM
antonio from park slope

Do painters who don't ever produce muddy colors in their work perceive colors faster? When they get it right they stop mixing because they see the color quicker? My problem in art school was mudding up my paintings from over working... :(

Feb. 20 2009 01:34 PM

Roses are red violets are blue–wait are they? I always thought violets looked more purple. I've often had conversations and debates with people about whether a color is more towards one color or another–how does one decide? How do you measure if a color is more blue or purple for example?

Feb. 20 2009 01:33 PM

Why do blondes supposedly have more fun–is this color related?

Feb. 20 2009 01:29 PM
Jason from NYC

Do different languages have different levels of color specificity? Which one has the most? Do languages from cold countries have more words for white? Etc...

Feb. 20 2009 01:29 PM
Otto from Manhattan

As a painter I find that my best results are when I take a very analytical approach to color. I consciously contrast warm and cool colors or I consciously resist contrast. Intuitive approaches work less for me and tend to give naive results. Yet it remains a mystery what we are "saying" when we choose a particular color. What could a color"mean"? Yellow is different for each culture.

Feb. 20 2009 01:28 PM
Jenny from brooklyn

I am a painter and have a studio which has huge windows that face south. Most painters like northern light as it keeps colors more constant, but i personally like the moodiness, and it keeps me guessing about how the color "really" looks. Can you discuss the way light affects color and mood?

Feb. 20 2009 01:26 PM
birder from brooklyn

you just talked about it but i'm a color blind artist. i didn't use color for the longest time until i realized i could just read the labels and make my choices that way. when i tell people that buy things from me they are always amazed. you would have no idea from looking at the art itself.

Feb. 20 2009 01:26 PM
RLewis from The Bowery

I understand that the mom of Dave Stewart of the Eurymics studied the effect of color on taste, so he grew up eating funny colored food. See what a unique person it made of him. Do we know what kind of effect color has on our sense of taste?

Feb. 20 2009 01:23 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Interesting dichotomy on the meaning of red. The "romantic" aspect is also seen in red roses & Valentine's hearts.

Feb. 20 2009 01:22 PM
Eliott from Brooklyn

Can you get BROWN using ONLY additive light mixing (in a lab or theatre) or is it impossible except by pigments? I once read you need some special subraction.

Feb. 20 2009 01:20 PM
Otto from Manhattan

The ancient Egyptians associated red with the desert and death. Black was associated with the Nile Valley, life and fertile soil. Our contemporary notion of being "in the red" or "in the black" comes from those times.

Feb. 20 2009 01:20 PM
Shoshana from Windsor Terrace

Can you explain the phenomenon of experiencing numbers, days of the week, etc. as having colors? I have experienced this my whole life, and only recently discovered that this is a kind of "condition."

Feb. 20 2009 01:13 PM
Jennifer from NYC

I am an artist and a designer and being highly visual I find that I am extremely sensitive to colors. I once lived in a space where we painted the floors bright safety yellow - I thought I was losing my mind the color made me a nervous wreck! I can't be around too much red for the same reason - I find it highly agitating - and so generally prefer to be around cool colors and primarily dress in solid neutrals - It keeps my head cool.

Feb. 20 2009 01:08 PM
Jill Ross Beres from Westport, CT

I am a loyal listener and a sustaining contributor.
I am very happy for you that you have new offices and a performing space.
I have no idea where Varick Street is, or more important, how to get there.
When the weather gets better, late Spring, early Summer, I would love to visit.
Is there a bus from Grand Central?
I do not feel comfortable taking the Subway by myself.

Feb. 20 2009 01:06 PM
Richard Campbell

Dear Leonard, I have been doing color therapy for about ten years with tremendous results. Specific to color tinted glasses, there are available in several different forms, color therapy eyewear which have "sunglasses" like glasses that are in pure color. A set of 9 is available for under 150 from many sellers on the web. I use these daily, cycling through all the colors. Although I have read many explanations the only one that makes sense to me is that as you cycle through the colors, you as it were cycle through many emotions, or moods, and that by going through the entire set of glasses, you open yourself up, or at least get any immediate mood that you may be suffering from under control, balanced as it were, much like it might be through the process of meditation. My experience is that over time, I have become a more balanced, relaxed person. I caution against using only one color for too long a time, particularly when you are just getting used to the experience because emotions, memories, etc., can come up from the past, and you would then have to deal with them, much as in psychotherapy-- and this as you can guess, can be troubling, if you do not have the time or support that might be necessary... however, if this does happen from the over use of one color, my advice would be to cycle through all the colors as I described, until the emotion or memory is contexturalized...

Feb. 20 2009 10:18 AM
RJ from NJ

two questions-
what is the origin of 'going green with Envy'?

I painted my room with various shades of red, what does that make of me?

Feb. 20 2009 10:08 AM

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