What’s your favorite color baby?

“What’s your favorite color baby?  Living Colour” –Living Colour

Do we choose what our favorite color is going to be, or does it choose us?  Is every person color conscious on some level —some more than others— or is the effect of color in one’s life over analyzed by those that think too much?  How much does color affect our shopping habits on those most important purchases we make in life?  If color is important to some of us, why do we choose one color over another, even in the most trivial moments of life?  Does it say something about our personality, where we’re from, or what we do for a living?  Or, could it be that on some existential level, our favorite color has chosen us?

eyeIf we find that perfect house, and it’s gray, and we’re not a gray guy, how likely are we to say, “It’s great, but it’s just not me.” If we’re not what one would consider a color conscious person, we may not be able to put your finger on it, but we know it doesn’t seem right to us.  We may then go through a litany of excuses as to why that house wasn’t for us, but the question is if that house were the perfect color, would we have felt the need to search for those excuses in the first place?  If we’re extremely color conscious, and we’ve braved this world before, we may tell our wife that it’s the color that bothers us most. To this, they’ll likely say, “We can always paint it, or re-panel it.”  We knew that was coming, and we probably already sorted through that, but some part of us knows that we wouldn’t be able to get passed the fact that it is a gray house.

“If you think every person is color conscious on some level,” a person that swears that they’re not color conscious at all will say, “then consider me an anomaly.  Color just isn’t that important to me.”  Everyone considers themselves anomalies to general rules of psychology, and some are, but some of them have probably never considered the role that color has played in their life on an unconscious level.

Do you love lilacs?  Is there some subconscious memory you have of lilacs that causes you to favor that flower, or do you just like the way they smell?  Is your favorite color purple?  How many purple cars are there on the motorways?  If we search through the websites of the major auto manufacturers, we find that purple is not an immediate option, yet if we travel to northern Kansas—home of the Kansas State Wildcats—we’ll find an inordinate amount of people that drive purple cars.  If we travel to Green Bay, Wisconsin, or Eugene, Oregon, we’ll probably find more green and yellow cars there than in any other part of the nation, and we’ll find roughly the same amount of people that will tell us that they did not choose the color of their car based on the local sports team’s colors.  The color of these vital products are just too important to some people to suggest that they made such important choices based on the color of their local, or favorite, team.

Yellow and purple may be exaggerations to prove the point, as most people would not purchase yellow and purple cars without some acknowledgement of team affiliation, but the general point remains that most people have deep seeded affiliations with colors.

Many of us have team affiliations for a variety of reasons.  Some of us have an appreciation of local college football teams, and subsequently their colors, that date back generations.  We cheered on the Nebraska Cornhuskers with our family, and friends, for so long that it’s ingrained, and the colors red, white, and black have an appeal to us that is so undefined, so subconscious, that when someone informs us that we selected a red car based on the fact that it touched this inner core, we get defensive.  “I just liked the color red for that particular model of car.  I thought it looked slick… or pretty… or shiny.  I’m a Cornhusker fan, but I’m not so fanatical that I would select a red car for that reason.  I don’t do fanatical things like that.  I just like the color red.”  The central question is not specific to that particular purchase of that particular automobile, but all the subconscious, and conscious, decisions that we made along the way that led us to believe that the color red was slicker, prettier, or shinier in general?  Was there something about the color red that reminded us of lazy Saturday afternoons cheering on the Huskers with friends and family, on some subconscious level, or did we just think it’s prettier?

When we purchase a shirt from a store shelf, we’re looking to make a statement.  We all know that a shirt will say a lot about us, before we’ve even said a word.  We know that that perfect shirt will send a message out to our world that we are a person to be taken seriously, at least for one day.  Some shirts may say too much, and some may not say enough, but is this message all about color, does it involve a brand name, or does our decision making revolve more around design?  If it’s color, why does grey appeal to us, but brown does not?  Is that decision based on our skin tone, and hair color, or do some colors have greater appeal to us based on aspects of your life that we’re not even aware of?

We do know that after looking at our face, our hair, and our teeth—to see if we’re well-groomed—most people will look at our shirt, and then our shoes, to find out what we’re all about.  A shirt, in this sense, frames everything we did that morning to prepare our presentation for the world on that day.  What if we don’t want to prepare yourself fully every single morning?  What if the process simply exhausts us on some level, on some days, that we rarely think about?  What if you’re one that’s been so disappointed in life, that you feel that completely grooming yourself only leads to greater disappointment?  What color would make that statement, or that anti-statement, for you, on that day, in that perfect way?  That perfect shirt, that frames the color of your hair and face perfectly, can lead someone to believe that some of your limited grooming was intentional.

When we sit before a mirror, with that perfect colored shirt on, have we ever gone back and thought that we needed more grooming based on that shirt of the day?  Has a shirt ever caused you to think that you over groomed?  Is there a perfect confluence of grooming, and color, and shirt, or is this too much concentration on the minutiae?  We may have a general feel for our congruence, but what are the particulars?  Is this conscious thinking, subconscious thinking, or an unrealized convergence of the two, and are the people that think this way aberrations, that should be subjected to ridicule for rectification, or are they on a level of color consciousness that most of us only consider subconsciously?

Some may call it a Forer Effect*{1}, to define a person by color, but the Healthy Living website gives detailed descriptions regarding why you select favorite colors, and what those decisions say about you.  If you’re a red, according to this site, you’re an impulsive person.  A darker shade of red, a maroon for example, suggests a more disciplined red person, and pink suggests a gentler red person.  Turquoise is fastidious, and grays may be attempting to suppress their personalities.  They also say that oranges and yellows can’t help but feel happier, and blues can’t help but feel more relaxed. If you believe in what some call the Forer Effect, but the book The Healing Power of Color by Betty Wood, as synopsized in this Healthy Living article,{2} says about color, then you believe that color says it all about a person.

If it’s true that our selection of a favorite color says a lot about who we are, and if color affects how people think of us, what does it say about those numerous homeowners that choose to buy, or later decorate their homes in beige, or some offshoot of beige?  Various interior design sites list beige, and the various offshoots of beige, as one of the most popular colors used in the interior of homes.  The most obvious, and conscious, reason to select beige is that it’s a neutral color, or as Feng Shui decorators would call it a Yang color, that can offset surrounding Yin accoutrements in “earthy colors that suggests neatness, and conceals emotion”.  Others have suggested that beige appeals to women on a subconscious level, because a beige discharge can be an early sign of pregnancy, and that decorating their home in that color is a constant reminder of the intensely exciting moment in their life when they first learned they would be a mother.  Some others have suggested that the decision to paint our homes beige may be a subconscious decision we made to put us in spiritual convergence with the 20,000 surrounding galaxies, casting their light on us, until we appear beige to them, or as scientists at John Hopkins University call this our “cosmic latte” coloring.  Most of us will state that we didn’t know that fact, and that beige just appealed to us for all of the superficial reasons listed above.  The central question to ask those that deny conscious and unconscious color selections is when we make these vital decisions, on the vital products we own, is are these decisions made flippantly, or impulsively, or are we inadvertently searching much deeper for the answer that no other color will do?

Cosmic latteDoes color selection have something to do with our personality, or does it have more to do with our aesthetic sense, and what does our aesthetic sense say about our personality?  Is it a superficial question to which the answer is: “I just thought it looked nice?”  When we select the color of our home, or the car we drive, or the shirt we wear for the day, do we select the color beige based on the fact that we simply don’t want to stand out?  Are we making an anti-statement against all of the colorful statements being made in our neighborhood, with the hope that our anti-statement will allow us to stand out against our otherwise colorful neighborhood?  Or is our selection of this cosmic latte coloring an unconscious attempt to protect ourselves against those surrounding galaxies, in the same manner the Jews of Moses’s day put lamb’s blood over their door posts to protect their firstborn against the angel of death?  Some of our decisions are conscious, some are unconscious.

*Forer Effect–An effect that leads some individuals to give high accuracy ratings to descriptions of their personality that supposedly are tailored specifically for them, but are in fact vague and general enough to apply to a wide range of people.

{1} http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forer_effect



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