Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Color names: More universal than you might think

20.10.2006
From Abidji to English to Zapoteco, the perception and naming of color is remarkably consistent in the world's languages.

Across cultures, people tend to classify hundreds of different chromatic colors into eight distinct categories: red, green, yellow-or-orange, blue, purple, brown, pink and grue (green-or-blue), say researchers in this week's online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Some languages classify colors into fewer categories, but even these categories are composites of those eight listed above, said Delwin Lindsey, the study's lead author and an associate professor of psychology at Ohio State University.

“Though culture can influence how people name colors, inside our brains we're pretty much seeing the world in the same way,” he said. “It doesn't matter if you're a native of Ivory Coast who speaks Abidji or a Mexican who speaks Zapoteco.”

He conducted the study with Angela Brown, an associate professor of optometry at Ohio State.

Lindsey and Brown used data from the World Color Survey, a collection of color names supplied by 2,616 people of 110 mostly unwritten languages spoken by mostly preindustrial societies. The survey's 320 different colors are organized into eight rows of 40 color chips per row (black, white and grays are each in their own category.)

The researchers used the survey because it included many people from preindustrial societies whose color names are thought to be relatively uncontaminated by contact with highly industrialized cultures whose color names closely resemble those found in English.

Lindsey and Brown devised a statistical method that let them determine the optimum number of color categories based on the color terms uncovered in the study.

“My own intuition was that if we looked across the world at different languages, people would obviously use different names, but roughly we'd find maybe 11 names used to partition color space,” Lindsey said. “That's not at all the case.

“By looking at more traditional cultures, we found that many have fewer color names, yet these names correspond to colors that English-speaking cultures also discriminate linguistically,” he continued.

Using a technique called cluster analysis, he and Brown analyzed data gathered by previous color survey researchers. This approach helped them measure the similarity across all the different cultures in terms of how each applies name to color.

“We have names for 11 basic colors in English,” Lindsey said. “Some cultures have two, some have three. We wanted to know if the cultures that say they only have two color terms chose colors similar to those selected by cultures that have more color names.”

They found that colors fall into eight distinct categories.

“Across cultures the average color-naming patterns of the clusters all glossed easily into single or composite English patterns,” Lindsey said.

“Even though people are really diverse, when push comes to shove, they are incredibly English-like,” he said. “Many cultures don't have all of the English color categories, but they have many of them. And the ones that aren't exactly English turn out to be what we call composites – simple combinations of adjacent color categories.”

That, says Lindsey, helps explain categories like grue (green-or-blue) and yellow-or-orange.

The researchers found a major distinction between warm and cool categories for many of those cultures that have just two or three common colors. That distinction tended to coincide with English colors that are thought to be warm (yellows, reds and oranges) and cool (greens and blues.)

“While there is some diversity in the location of the color boundaries, there is an absolutely rock solid boundary across all the cultures, which English speakers would call warm and cool,” Lindsey said.

For example, some societies lump all the cool colors into one category, and all the warm colors into another category, while other societies subdivide warm and cool colors into several categories. In the case of the subdivided categories, there still exist color boundaries that separate warm from cool.

Lindsey said the next stage in this research is to look at physiology of color perception, as some researchers believe that infants have the innate ability to recognize certain colors.

Delwin Lindsey | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.osu.edu

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Real-time feedback helps save energy and water
08.02.2017 | Otto-Friedrich-Universität Bamberg

nachricht The Great Unknown: Risk-Taking Behavior in Adolescents
19.01.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Stingless bees have their nests protected by soldiers

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

New risk factors for anxiety disorders

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

MWC 2017: 5G Capital Berlin

24.02.2017 | Trade Fair News

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>