The Dennes Room

Event Detail

Thu Sep 23, 2010
234 Moses Hall, 5:30–7:30 PM
Working Group in the Philosophy of Mind
Stephen E. Palmer and Karen B. Schloss (University of California, Berkeley Psychology Department)
Human Color Preferences: An Ecological Valence Approach

Color preference is an important aspect of human behavior, but little is known about why people like the colors they do. Recent results from the Berkeley Color Project (BCP) provide an answer. I will report detailed measurements of preferences among 37 colors and the fit of several models to these data, including ones based on cone contrasts, color appearance, color-emotion associations, and Palmer & Schloss’s ecological valence theory (EVT), which is based on the statistics of people’s emotional reactions to colored objects. The EVT postulates that color serves an evolutionary “steering’ function, analogous to taste preferences, biasing organisms to approach advantageous objects and avoid disadvantageous ones. It predicts that people will tend to like colors to the extent that they like the objects that are characteristically that color, averaged over all such objects. The EVT predicts 80% of the variance in average preference ratings from the Weighted Affective Valence Estimates (WAVEs) of correspondingly colored objects, much more variance than any of the other models. I will also describe how hue preferences for single colors differ as a function of object-type, gender, expertise, culture, social institutions, and perceptual experience, and how many of these effects might be explained by the EVT.