Saturday, July 25, 2009

Why do people have favorite colors?

Random thought time.

Why do people have favorite colors? It may be like having a favorite food, which I assume is basically chemical in food > taste buds > signal to brain > release of happy chemicals (very scientific discorse following my last posts). I guess a favorite color would go more like certain light waves > particular stiumlation > signal to brain > release of happy chemicals.

But is that really how it works? With food, I will pick my favorite over others, and I will go "mmmmm" when a delicious piece of cheesecake is in my mouth. But my favorite color is blue, and the sight of blue doesn't necessarily make me elated. I don't jump for joy when I see a blue car over a red car. My closet isn't just full of blue clothes - if I got a wonderful psychological reaction of of blue, you would expect it would be. But at the same time if you asked me my favorite color, I was not hesitate to say blue.

My guess is that having a favorite color is a cultural meme. We're asked at an early age what our favorite color is, and we're expected to have a quick answer. I wonder if younger children have to think longer about their choice than older children, or if younger children change their mind more and then their favorite color becomes permanent. I'm not sure how that initial color is picked - maybe it's the color of their room, their blanket, their favorite toy - or maybe it's completely arbitrary and then they stick with it. And from that point on, it starts reinforcing itself. I know blue is my favorite color because I said it was my favorite color. I like blue more because people start buying me blue things that I like (my mom basically bought me nothing but blue clothes when I was little). After a while I can't come up with a logical reason why I like the color blue - I just do. It seems instinctive. Yet I have a hard time believing my preference for blue has a genetic basis - but who knows, weirder things have been found.

Keep in mind this is arm chair speculation - it could be complete BS. But what do you think? Any hypotheses? Any sources I should have tried to find?

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  1. I have always liked red. Red has grabbed my attention when I was younger. My favourite things were red when I was growing up. Optimus Prime is mostly red, for instance. Perhaps that has something to do with it.

    I agree it is self-reinforced. I used to do it when I was young. Insist it is my fav. color.

  2. My favorite color stems from my favorite character in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It definetly was not genetics or anything else that played into me picking the color; it was me liking the character.

  3. I'd assume it was self-reinforced, but then, I wouldn't know what the hell has been up with me.

    My initial color was "yay blue!" then green from fifth grade to ninth. Then it went to purple, because black was "too emo for me." Ultimately, I settled on orange, which I do go out of my way to incorporate into things.

    Mostly they're silly things, like little details in games or writing, but I've got more orange shirts in my closet than any other color save for black. So, I think I'm just weird as hell.

  4. I was actually just thinking about this the other day. I think, to some extent, it's ascribed to us. At least, it was to me. At some point, my favorite color was blue, and for a long time that was always my answer when asked. But, at some point, I realized that I didn't really like blue especially much. Now, I'd be hard pressed to name a "favorite" color, other than “something earthy”. Lately, I tend to think of “what's your favorite color” in just about the same way as “what's your sign” (which is to say, not very well).

  5. When I was younger, my favorite "color" was "blue and pink and purple". And I'm even more indecisive now.

    I think having a "favorite color" is silly. I think most every color looks good; it all depends on the context. Some colors just don't look good in some situations.

    I don't feel as though I have ever had a favorite color. There was a time when I loved pink, but I certainly didn't like *just* pink. If anything, I am puzzled about color preferences -- why some colors look intrinsically better than others.

  6. Oh. My least favorite color has always been yellow, though. It's always looked terrible to me, no matter what context it's in.

  7. It is kind of silly now that one thinks of it, but it is at least a harmless irrational quirk of being human. It can certainly change, though... I used to love black as a little kid, but started distancing myself from it when people started categorizing me because of all the black clothing. :-P Now I'm heavily into blues, and I always pick the blue pieces in Settlers of Cataan when available.

  8. I too loathe the color yellow.

    And I still always pick the blue pieces in board games. I get cranky when I don't get the color I want.

  9. Heh. Everyone does that. Not many have orange pieces, though, so I often have to settle for red or green.

    I think the only one that has an orange piece, in my memory, is the Pokemon Master Trainer board game. Or, at least, it's the only one in my collection.

  10. I prefer reds, especially deep burgandies and such... but red is the color that looks best on me, so maybe that has something to do with it. Then again, I'm always drawn to the color...whether I'm picking out a comforter or the paint for a room, so maybe not.

  11. Hi Jen, I just wanted to let you know that I read your blog post and I really liked it. I'm part of my high school's Speech and Debate team and I'm using one of your sentences for my Original Oratory piece about conforming to society's expectation that everyone must have a favorite color. (Of course, I have to give you credit!) Anyways, even though this was written 3 years ago, I enjoyed it. (I am actually enjoying all your blog posts.) Thanks!

  12. Okay so picking a favorite color is more biological than not. In our early brain we could only see yellow and blue. Blue was water and sky, and yellow was food. As we have evolved our brain has figured out how to see other colors. There was a study done where 10,000 people where asked their favorite color. 35% blue, 21% red, 18% black, 10% green, 6% yellow, 6% purple, 3% pink, 1% other.