Colors in cultures

By Ingrid Fetell Lee

What a great visualization (click image to see larger) of color associations with emotions and other abstract ideas across different cultures from the people at Information is Beautiful. A nice complement to Emotionally Vague, a project I wrote about last year that looked at color associations across a narrower set of emotions.

It’s especially interesting to see what color associations are near universal: Passion, Purity, Truce, Cold, and Evil all have consistent meaning. Of course, my eye first went to joy, which appears to have consensus on yellow, until you realize only two cultures are represented. I’d bet that association would reasonably widespread, though.

One thing I’m wishing for here is a little more rigor on the sourcing. “Web sources” sounds dodgy; I’d love it if someone out there would do a proper survey, at least of the primary emotions, across a large number of cultures. My hypothesis would be that the more visceral and affective a concept is, the less culturally determined and more universal the color response would be. So physiological concepts like hot and cold, and emotional terms like passion, anger, sadness, and joy would be more consistent across cultures. More rational concepts like luck, luxury, and marriage, would be cultural determined and therefore prone to variation. Just a hypothesis, at this point.

via R. Walker (thanks!)

April 27th, 2010


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