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Do you see what I see? - Color is in the eye of the beholder

Color Men and Women Perception Quilt Fabric

Let me share with you a common conversation here at the Story Quilts Ranchita.

I make a comment to the Ranch Boss, "look at this great new blue fabric." In which she replies, "that is a sea foam green."

Though I am just the ranch hand around here I am pretty sure that I can tell the difference between blue and green I try and stand my ground, "I'm pretty sure this is blue." Then I get the look that has been passed down through the generations by women to women. It is that combination look that shuts down all further discussion. A blend of pity, authority, and finality.

I then put away the sea foam green fabric, muttering under my breath.

These spousal home school lessons on color have taken place at the paint chip aisle, clothing stores, craft stores, quilt market, and on hikes through the flowering hills in spring. And they all end the same - with the look.

Imagine my delight and surprise when I came across a study by Israel Abramov, a psychologist and behavioral neuroscientist at CUNY’s Brooklyn College, in which he looked at how men and women perceived colors.

Here I am going to quote from an article from Psychology Today by Sadie Steffens, who puts this into laymen's terms:

Three dimensions affect how we visualize color: hue, saturation, and brightness. Hue is the actual color—red, yellow, green, or blue. Saturation is the deepness of the color: emerald green is more saturated than pastel green. Brightness describes the way a color radiates or reflects light.
Abramov asked men and women to break down the hue of a color and to assign a percentage to the categories red, yellow, green, and blue. The results showed that women were more adept at distinguishing between subtle gradations than were men. This sensitivity was most evident in the middle of the color spectrum. With hues that were mainly yellow or green, women were able to distinguish tiny differences between colors that looked identical to men. (When it Comes to Seeing Color, Men and Women Aren't Seeing to Eye, Psychology Today, April 15, 2015)


Here's a visual of what they are saying:

Color chart, quilting, men and women

This chart from National Geographic's video, Brain Games:Colours, gives a great visual of how this works.

Color chart, quilt fabric,

Now ladies, before you claim ultimate visual superiority there are some other things that came out of the study. Men are much more adept at perceiving changes in brightness across spaces, which helps them see letters on a page better and recognizing faces. Men also have the ability to better see fine details then women.  

So give us men a break when it comes to color, we see what we see and you see what you see. I am sure there will be ample other opportunities to pull out the look.

(Bonus fact: Researchers at Newcastle University also believe that some women may be able to see 99 million more colors than the average human being. They estimate that there are about 12 million women with this ability to see color as birds, amphibians and reptiles do. To the husbands of these women I say, never ever, ever never help them pick colors for their next quilt)

Have a funny color related story? Be sure and share it in the comments section.

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  • Susan C on

    Years ago, I was looking at a beautiful display at the Smithsonian – mineral of all colors and shades.
    However, just below the window was a sign “If you are over 10 years old, you cannot see all the colors as your eyes have already started to deteriorate.” Nearly 50 years later, that still makes me angry! I want to see ALL the colors!!

  • Rachael on

    The chart you picked still puts sea foam green into the green category so your wife was still correct… ;) ;)

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