The evolution of color perception

Despite the fact that I already wrote about this in the article “Color Solfeggio”, I will not be too lazy to repeat some key ideas, but this time in slightly different words and with some illustrations.

When a person is born, for the first few months he sees practically nothing, except for muddy spots and After 2-3 months, he begins to focus his eyes on nearby objects, to isolate his mother’s face from the entire flow of visual information. The older the child becomes, the more details are distinguished by his eye.

You probably noticed that toys for children are usually very bright (saturated), and the colors themselves are not used very much. This is because children tend to be incapable of appreciating the nuances of color. Purely physiologically, they can distinguish similar colors, but in real life, 15-20 colors are more than enough for them. In the system of internal values ​​of the child, key positions are occupied by conventions like “girls – pink, boys – blue”. Subtle nuances of color leave the child indifferent, only super-saturated colors evoke an emotional response.

The older the child becomes, the more flowers he needs for life. It is increasingly important for teenagers to be different from each other, to express their individuality, including through preferences, including through color. More and more color nuances, “baubles” appear in the clothes of boys and girls, and the colors themselves become less flashy, more and more restrained and refined. That is, there are more and more of them, and they themselves become less saturated.

It is rare to meet an adult dressed in bright clothes on the street. And even less often it is consistent with the concept of “good taste”, rather – with the concept of “outrageous”. That is how, for example, Andy Warhol shocked the public with his works.

Around the age of 20, when a person becomes an adult, his natural visual development stops. Further, the mechanisms of “optional education” begin (or do not begin) to operate, that is, the personal interests of a person in the development of their creative potentials.

I have seen such data. The average Russian high school student distinguishes between about 150-200 colors. Japanese – about 300-400. The difference is due to the education system and social (including family, ethnological) values: there are many more aesthetic disciplines in the programs of Japanese schools, including ikebana and drawing.

How many colors a student distinguishes, in this context means how many colors he uses for life. In other words, this number indicates how many colors a person needs to choose from. That is, if you ask the average Russian and Japanese schoolchildren to distinguish between color shades, then purely physiologically they will see and distinguish them in approximately the same way. But the Japanese need more colors, for example, when choosing the same clothes, car or paint for the fence. Where the Russian chooses between two colors, the Japanese will most likely say “I’m between this and that.”

Any taste is determined primarily by the ability to discern shades. Take, for example, dry wine – almost all people at first perceive it as “sour”. And only a certain experience allows you to begin not only to distinguish the subtle nuances in the taste of wines, but also to get real pleasure from savoring them.

In the same way, to a person with insufficient visual experience, it seems tasteless (and even “sour”) that which is not excessively bright. The inability to distinguish shades is evidence of the coarsening of taste buds. In the same way, after a tongue burn, everything tastes like cotton, only in the case of color, it is not the throat that is burned, but the retina of the eye. And it is burned not with boiling water, but with oversaturated colors.

As the ability to distinguish shades develops, the “receptors”, on the contrary, become more receptive. This inevitably leads to intolerance to too rich, “tasteless”, acidic, burning color.

The third level of perception is a personal attitude to certain shades. A person can distinguish color nuances and understand why other people like them, but he himself does not experience the impression of observing them. Usually, in this case, delicate wording “I don’t like”, “this is not mine”, etc. is used.

However, most often, when discussing personal preferences, it does not reach this level, because the majority of people are not able to distinguish those shades that people with developed perception feel. From the point of view of the layman, a person who admires photographs with variable, but weakly saturated colors is a snob who powders the brains of those around him, passing off as aesthetics something that allegedly does not exist. In fact, what some people see, others may simply not notice.

The question logically arises – then how to learn to see? How to develop taste? The answer to these questions will be banal, as always: to taste the color and develop “taste buds”. That is, go to museums, study painting, albums and books on art. Peer and accumulate visual experience.