Is The Colour We See An Illusion

The BBC Horizon programme recently ran a documentary called “Do You See What I See?” which was about the illusion of colour. Scientists ran a variety of experiments dealing with our perception of what we see and how it affects us. Firstly a group of footballers were invited to a penalty shoot out and were given shirts to wear in RED,BLUE and WHITE, they did not know what the reason for the experiment was, nor how it was being conducted. There were to be saliva and hormone tests. The result was that the REDS achieved more than the BLUES and the WHITES who were the control group, hormone tests showed that the REDS had lower stress levels. Further colour tests in competetive situations showed that RED was perceived as higher achieving and more aggressive, even when that was not always the case. Really these results were not surprising because RED is the colour of the base chakra which is the area of survival, energy and strength among other things.

They then tested a group of people, of mixed ages and gender, to see if colour affected the sense of time passing and again RED, BLUE and WHITE were used. The people stood in pods of the various colours and were asked to turn around when they thought a minute had passed. Surprisingly, those that stood in the BLUE pod, on average, thought that a minute had passed eleven seconds earlier that those in RED and WHITE. So in this case RED slows time down and BLUE is seen as quickening it up. BLUE is calming and relaxing so perhaps those people were so relaxed they thought that their minute was up much sooner, it also relates to the throat chakra, the area of communication, and I wondered if they felt that they wanted to give off their information sooner, but I was surprised at the result.

Next they explained that when there was just a single cell organism living under water, the only colours seen were BLUE and YELLOW because all that mattered was water and sky. As life and sight evolved the rods and cones developed and RED and GREEN could also be seen. So the colours BLUE and YELLOW were ‘hard wired’ into the systems, but RED and GREEN were learned. There then followed an interesting experiment whereby we looked at two blocks of colour, RED and GREEN, with two pictures underneath of YELLOW sand and BLUE sky. After staring at a dot in the centre of the RED and GREEN blocks for a short while the colours underneath changed to a pinky green hue, thus showing that colour can be an illusion. Further research has shown that within the eye there are cells that deal not with images, but with light, called Photon Ganglione, Retinal Ganglione cells with Melanopsin as pigment for non image forming visual functions.
More experiments have shown that language plays a big part in colour perception as well, the majority of languages have eleven words to describe colour but some have much less. Tests with isolated tribes in Namibia, who live in a rather barren landscape, showed quite a difference in perception as they only have five words for colour. Colour therapists tend to work with spectral colours, and healers would also work with spiritual rays and hues, but this has made me wonder what the effects are if we are not all seeing colour (or sensing it) in the same way.

The final experiment shown was about lighting. A lighting expert persuaded a prominent restaurant to try BLUE lighting rather than the usual dimmed red/brown glow, and the result surprised them. Customers were quite happy with it,but after eating their meals and chatting quietly as was the normal case, they suddenly became a lot more lively from about 10pm onwards. They were more active and noisier and it happened regularly. It seems that their body clocks thought that they should wake up, the BLUE colour relating to morning. This appeared to surprise those conducting the experiment but, in the book ‘The Healing Energies of Colour’ by Theo Gimbel, which was first printed in 1994, there is a diagram of colours in relation to our body clock and BLUE is listed as the colour in rhythm with the bodies energies from 6am to 8am. I wondered if the reason that people feel time moves faster in a BLUE atmosphere is because it is one of the colours present when the bodies energies quicken.
There were several other experiments as well, all very interesting to anyone using colour as a tool or a specific theme. I personally found it a fascinating programme. As always thank you to those who leave comments, many are repeated over and over again so I don’t keep them but I read every one.

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