Eat your blues
written by Jackie Lorch
There is much food for thought for designers of online surveys in a series of award-winning articles about our perceptions of color by Aatish Bhatia. This should be especially interesting for designers of multi-country online questionnaires containing visual elements.
Although it’s difficult to say where one color ends and another begins on a rainbow, says Bhatia, different cultures often end up with the same colors in their vocabulary. The word used for red might be quite different – red, rouge, laal, etc., but the concept of redness is something that most cultures share.
But in Japan, for example, people often refer to a “go” traffic light as being blue, although it’s the same color as elsewhere. Traditionally there was only one word for blue and green in Japan; separate words weren’t generally used until about 1950 (following the import of crayons and educational materials which made the distinction). In Japan, vegetables, leaves and apples are still “ao” or “blue”.
Research has shown that if a language has a separate word for blue and green, people who speak it are quicker to identify a blue square among green ones. But this is only true if the blue square is on the right side of their visual field! The reason is that everything we see in the right half of our vision is processed in the left hemisphere of our brain, and for most of us, the left brain is stronger at processing language.
However, when people are verbally distracted, it suddenly becomes harder to separate blue from green. In fact research shows that people find it more difficult to distinguish between blue and green when verbally distracted than between two shades of green. If the distraction is visual, not verbal, the opposite is true; it becomes easier to spot the blue among the green.
There is much more to discover in the full 2-part article at the Empirical Zeal web site. Recommended reading.