Color by Ear

Seeing is believing, or wait, maybe hearing is!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Turquoise or aqua? Lavender or lilac? If someone tells you the NAME of a color, does that affect how you see it? Lewis Forder and Gary Lupyan of University of Wisconsin Madison wanted to find out!

They tested about thirty volunteers for their color-hearing abilities. Participants were shown four colors and had to pick the odd one out. Or, they were shown different shades of ONE color and had to choose the best example.

One group was TOLD the color to look for. The other had a label to READ.

Results? HEARING the color’s name — rather than READING it — helped people select colors more accurately!

This suggests that the colors we see are influenced by the words we hear.

So — what color to paint the living room — eggshell, vanilla or ivory?? AARGH – who can tell the difference??!