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Color Categories

November 22, 2006

Despite dramatic differences in the number of categories and color names, people categorize colors in universal ways.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):
Cross-cultural color categories. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Gertrude Stein said "a rose is a rose is a rose." Now, psychologists Delwin Lindsey and Angela Brown of Ohio State University have proven that red is red is red. Using the World Color Survey, they found that people universally classify a color according to its position on the rainbow. In other words, Lindsey says any non-English speaker’s word for "red" would also include shades like burgundy, brick, and cherry.

DELWIN LINDSEY (The Ohio State University):
But they certainly would not have a color name that would span two entirely different categories.

HIRSHON:
He says even cultures with only two color names don’t lump together clashing colors, but split the spectrum into warm and cool hues, showing that basic color distinctions arise from our brains and not our cultures. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.