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COLO1520 ASSIGNMENT REPORT

THE HUMAN RESPONSE TO COLOUR

Colour semantics are an important part of understanding and appreciating the principle elements of the psychology of colour and design. The way in which humans respond to colour in everyday environments is determined by subconscious responses, learning to manipulate and measure these is invaluable to designers. Human vision is the ability of human beings to interpret information about the surrounding environment from light reaching the eye, or the ability to see. The visual system consists of three different parts, sensation is the physical feeling that is a product of experience, perception is the ability to perceive something through the use of the senses, and cognition is the mental process of gaining knowledge and understanding through the use of the sensation and perception stages [Oxford English Dictionary]. Both scene-dependent and viewer-dependent variables affect the images we perceive of the scene in front of us [Hitchings, J.B. 2003] these variables are an important aspect in how human respond to colour as it helps to identify the causes of changes in the perception of colour in multiple conditions. Perceptual expectations include identification, safety, usefulness, pleasantness and satisfaction [Hutchings, J.B. 2003], and these form a part of the cognition process and an expectation of an object based upon its colour. The brain builds a model of the world through the use of cognitive thought, but this model can be affected by the manipulation and fooling of the brain by environmental conditions. This causes the misinterpretation of information processed by the sensation and perception elements of the visual system. Both assimilation and simultaneous contrast are good examples of how humans can respond to colour and tonal changes in the wrong ways. Figure 1 and Figure 2 show the effects of lateral inhibition (simultaneous contrast) and Figure 3 represents Assimilation. These visual effects demonstrate how the cognitive system is vulnerable to changes in environment, which cause the human responses to change depending on the way in which it is sensed and perceived.

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Figure 1. The Hermann Grid demonstrates how the visual system can be deceived through geometrical shapes and the manipulation of contrast and tone.

Figure 2. This image shows the effects of simultaneous contrast. The grey square on the lighter background looks visually darker than the one on the darker side, although both are identical. This demonstrates how human cognition is vulnerable to changes caused by environmental conditions.

Figure 3. This is an example of Assimilation; the coloured stripes look darker behind the black pattern and lighter behind the white. This again demonstrates how colour can be affected by the way in which we perceive it in its environment.

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Psychophysics is the interaction between a physical stimulus (colour) and psychological responses; the Semantic Scale devised by Shigenobu Kobayashi is a scale of colour responses for measuring this. On this scale every colour has three attributes, these are warm or cool, soft or hard, and clear or grayish, which correlate with hue, value, and chroma. The Colour Image Scale is useful for describing the similar and contrasting images of colors. The scale also allows the classification and correlation of various objects and the study of personal preferences in these and other areas [Kobayashi, S. 1981]. The semantic scale is important for studying how humans respond to colour in a psychological respect, it shows colour scientists the trend of responses relating to particular colour samples. Another method of testing the human responses to colour is by gathering data relating to subconscious psychophysiological responses, this removes all bias and mischief from the human reaction to colour. Methods of measuring these responses include measuring the corrugator muscle, heart rate and skin conductance. Although these processes are great at recording responses to colours in rapid succession, over drawn out periods of time they are less effective and physcophysical methods of measurement are far more effective in these circumstances. In summary, the initial human response to colour is an essential part of understanding the uses of colour semantics for designers; a full and comprehensive understanding of the elements of colour psychology is invaluable. The appearance of colour is dependent upon surrounding environmental conditions, it is important to measure the responses of humans accurately identify their properties; the semantic scale is a positive method of doing this. Psychophysical and psychophysiological methods of testing have their own strengths and weaknesses, but used correctly they are a very useful. Using these methods of testing and observation gives a designer a useful insight into the impact of correctly utilising colour and how this can create the maximum impact possible from their designs.

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REFERENCE LIST OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY [Online]. [accessed 4th May 2012]. Available from: http://oed.com/ HUTCHINGS, J.B. 2003. Expectations and the Food Industry: The Impact of Color and Appearance [online]. [accessed 4th May 2012]. Available from: http://books.google.co.uk/books KOBAYASHI, S. 1981. The aim and method of the color image scale. Color Research and Application. Volume 6, Issue 2, Pages 93107. FIGURES Figure 1. The Hermann Grid, from: Illusion Works [online]. [accessed 4th May 2012]. Available from: http://psylux.psych.tudresden.de/i1/kaw/diverses%20Material/www.illusionworks.com/html/hermann_grid.html Figure 2. Simultaneous Contrast, from: Illusion Works [online]. [accessed 4th May 2012]. Available from: http://psylux.psych.tudresden.de/i1/kaw/diverses%20Material/www.illusionworks.com/html/hermann_grid.html Figure 3. Assimilation, from: Introduction to colour science [online]. [accessed 4th May 2012]. Available from: http://www.itp.uni-hannover.de/~zawischa/ITP/introcol.html

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