Language Changes Perception Of Color

March 6, 2008 at 2:08 pm (amazing things)

Here is a fascinating article (via Boing Boing) about language and the perception of color.

When infant eyes absorb a world of virgin visions, colors are processed purely, in a pre-linguistic parts of the brain. As adults, colors are processed in the brain’s language centers, refracted by the concepts we have for them.

I bet this has to do with the way people can have very ingrained cultural associations with color, like red being related to sex and anger.

“As an adult, color categorization is influenced by linguistic categories. It differs as the language differs,” said Kay, who is renowned for his studies on the ways that different cultures classify colors. He cited recent research on the ability of Russian speakers to detect shades of blue . . . that English speakers classify as a single color.


I’m curious about what this means about the perceptions of people with language-related disabilities, and whether there are parallel effects for other kinds of perception, like music. And I’m also curious about whether this is related to cultural preferences for color schemes, that is, the way that cultures ften have distinctive palettes used in their folk art, their homes, and their adornment.

Read the whole thing.

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