A new study has revealed why the way people perceive “real yellow” changes with the seasons.
Colors are an integral part of human culture. Virtually every country on the map has at least one meaning that they associate with each color, including so called non-colors – black and white. Some of the countries have similar meanings for the same color, while others have radically different meanings.
Every spring, summer, autumn and winter, fashion magazines go crazy trying to tell people which colors are in and which are out. And the seasons themselves are known for favoring different colors – spring likes pastel colors, summer likes green, autumn likes brown and orange, winter likes white, grey band blue.
And researchers from York University have found that the changes happening in nature affect how we perceive the color yellow.
To understand why, it’s important to be reminded that the human eye is capable of identifying four (4) pure hues that are not the result of two or more hues mixing together – blue, green, red and yellow.
While different populations have been shown to perceive “real blue”, “real green” and “real red” differently, everyone seems to have the same idea about what “real yellow” looks like.
The team from York University wanted to know whether the stability of the latter color is due to the biology of the human eye or due to the changes in the environment.
They were betting on the second option and in order to prove their theory, they selected 67 subjects and tested them once in June and once in January.
The researcher took the subjects into a dark room, gave them enough time so that their eyes could adjust to the change, then presented them with a colorimeter and had them adjust the dial until they felt comfortable saying that they had a “real yellow” in front of them.
But the so called “real yellow” looked very different in the summer than it did in the winter. Lauren Welbourne, PhD student and lead author, has an explanation: “What we are finding is that between seasons our vision adapts to changes in environment”.
She added that during summer months, “when there is a much larger amount of foliage, our visual system has to account for the fact that on average we are exposed to far more green”.
Welbourne said that the changes our eyes go though from season to season are very similar to the process of “changing the color balance” on a computer or a TV.
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