Blue & Green: not what they seem?

There is so much that we take for granted on a daily basis; perhaps assuming that one person’s experience is going to be another’s for example. It was fascinating then, to watch the BBC’s Horizon: Do You See What I See?

It turns out that how we see colour is not the same: illusion, mood, culture and language all directly affect our colour vision. Show this aspirational summer sky to the Himba tribe in Namibia and they will describe the blue and some of the greens with the same word. In fact, they will take considerably longer than readers of this blog to even see there is any difference in the colours of the leaves and the sky.

Five words cover the colour of their world.

Contrast this with the Desana language in the Amazon, a tribe who, with their words for such colours as yellow-bright like the sun’s rays, and yellowy-green, and greenish-blue like moonlight, can experience and describe their rainforest hues in all their spectral glory; leaving our *language, and perhaps our colour experience, wanting.

And best of all, consider this: blue and yellow are the first colours we evolved to see and as such are hardwired into our emotional lives.

Escape into blue and our perception of time quickens.

No wonder we miss those summer skies…

*A useful list of words for colours

Posted on August 24, 2011, in Art, Biophilia, Science, Television, Words and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Call then what you want but if you’re colourblind you use the wrong word anyway. 😦

    Do you think I could start an e-petition to get it recognised as a disability? It bars you from lots of jobs for a start. Electrician, Pilot, snooker player….

    • There is ‘ordinary’ colour blindness and achromatopsia. The latter can be due to damage to the brain and the sufferer is unable to even remember or imagine colour. If you don’t have that they can pop something in your eyes that helps apparently – at least they did for squirrel monkeys who couldn’t see red and green and it worked immediately!

      As I grow increasingly deaf on one side I realise I don’t know what I’m missing. I wonder if that applies to the colourblind? Can you miss what you don’t know you miss?

  2. I would genuinely like you to become a guest poster on my weblog.

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