COLOR as exemplar

This was a comment composed in YW related to an excellent article on how different cultures and languages divide up the regions of the color spectrum into differed names, such a blue or green.    ———–

This is very interesting and I could devote days (even years) exploring the fractal depth of color (and sound, taste, feel, etc.) and mixtures – AND how different cultures and languages divide up our experiences of color so (when needed) we can communicate.

It has always intrigued me that we see a color spot differently depending on the other colors that surround it – a color area has no unique color experience to the human mind.  In the 1960s on an LSD “trip” I saw multicolored surfaces in continued shifting of hues. On closer study, some regions of uniform color remained constant while others shifted, then what areas remained constant shifted again and again. What LSD did for me was to block the coming to an inner, unconscious decision as to what fixed color map would be presented to consciousness. Most of my sensory experiences with LSD were of this type – a blocking of inner decision-making and my experiencing the decision process – and these experiences were always beautiful.

As to the naming of spots on a continuous light spectrum, did they look at the needs to communicate color distinctions. Visual artists obviously have motivation to have a fine grained naming of colors. Every spring I enjoy observing the new growth (e.g. leaves) from the older growth, and I would use “lighter green” from “darker green” when communicating this distinction.  That the color of new growth on different plants was different was not a relevant issue for me at the time.

This brings to mind a meta-query. How do we decide what detail is relevant to achievement of our primary objectives and what can safely be ignored? There are far, far too many domains of potential interest that can all be attended to. There will always be some to attend to each domain; but what domains call for collective attention? And, it is essential to account for individual differences – most humans are prone to assume others experience as they do, but only interpret it differently. This assumption has caused great difficulty for humankind.

For those with vision, and not color blind, color is a very important visual characteristic for presenting distinction in images. However, I frequently find others objecting to my use of color for emphasis in text as the equivalent of SHOUTING – as others also object to the use of all CAPS.  That specific colors are selected to represent different values of some other variable is a totally different issue. It brings to mind the different color levels of threat FEMA used, for which many ridiculed (not necessarily correctly). If we chose colors to represent values, we had better be sure that those colors have the same connotations for most cultures. And, if you chose too many colors you will need to provide a color key for those who will see the colors but who can’t readily attach the proper label – unless there is training for that practice. Just as some have perfect pitch and some don’t, I expect others have perfect “color pitch” and others don’t. I can distinguish two colors when they are presented together. But, show me one color, and ask me to pick it out from a set of colors that are close, I would not be able to do it. Others can do it easily. I don’t know the distribution of these competencies in populations.

Author: nuet

01/24/1935. BS-physics RPI 1956; MS-physics UofChicago 1958; PhD-physics Yale 1965; PhD-Edu Psy Uof MInnesota 1970. Auroral Research Byrd Station, Antarctica 11/1960-02/1962. MINNEMAST curriculum dev 1964-68. Woodstock. faculty Pima Community College, Tucson 1974-1997. Transdisciplinary scientist, philosopher, educator, futurist, activist. PC user since 1982. "Wife". daughter, 2 grandsons. 5 dogs & 7 cats. Lacks mental imagery in all sensory domains.

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