Colour. Try for a moment to imagine a world without it? Are you imagining a world in black and white? Well, those are colours too! Truth be told it is actually hard to imagine a world without such vibrance and visual stimuli.
Colour is a form of expression. We often use red to express anger or passion, green to express peace or fertility, yellow to express warmth or happiness. The list can go on. But the ground rule here is the same. Colours are seen. And the visual stimulus corresponds to an emotion or feeling. And this is the case for approximately 96% of the human population. We will talk about the remaining 4% soon.
Interestingly, the reason why we see colours as they are is because the human eye is receptive to a particular segment of the spectrum of light. It is a portion of the electromagnetic spectrum called visible light. Certain animals (reptiles, to be exact) see a different portion of this spectrum. Like the infra-red portion, for example.
These animals essentially see heat. And this is to their advantage because prey would typically be warmer than their surroundings. Another interesting fact is that while we see from our eyes, certain animals see from their tongues or antennae. If you are picturing a slithering snake or a creepy crawly cockroach, you are spot on. The point I am trying to make here is that we cannot make generalizations about stimuli and receptors. There will always be deviations from the norm- which make us beautiful and diverse.
Let’s go back to the 4% of the population that does not necessarily see colour as others do. Synesthesia. That is the term to define it. It basically means that the stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway. It could be due to a crossing over of certain neuronal pathways or other reasons yet to be known. Basically, synesthetes may hear, smell or taste certain colours as opposed to just seeing them.
Vincent Van Gogh
A lot of popular artists have claimed to be synesthetes. The great Vincent Van Gogh for example is probably one of the best known synesthetes. It definitely adds a whole new spectrum of expression to colour. And this proves that colour does not merely have to stimulate the eyes alone. It can stimulate the ears, the tongue and the nose! Perhaps our understanding of colour is yet to be deepened, now that we can add auditory, taste and olfactory stimuli into the picture. Perhaps usage of colour in various marketing strategies and design can be diversified if we are able to better understand how colour could potentially stimulate all the senses.
Author: Sarita Perera