What’s your favourite colour

This column originally appeared in The Observer Magazine/Guardian Online

What’s your favourite colour? Pick one from the wheel below, then scroll down to find out what your answer says about you.

colour-wheel

Red: You’re a winner: extraverted, outgoing, impulsive and athletic!

Blue: Although sometimes rather fussy, you have good taste, and enjoy the best in clothes, food and wine.

Yellow: You are an idealist, and are great at thinking through problems before arriving at a logical conclusion.

Green: You are freedom-loving, outspoken and….

…I can’t go on. Although there is no shortage of experts prepared to read your personality off your colour preferences, it’s all bunkum. The best-supported theory is that how much a person likes a particular colour is determined by their feelings towards objects that are always or usually that colour. In fact, if – like University of California psychologists Stephen Palmer and Karen Schloss – you ask people to rate 200 or so objects for how much they like them, you can predict 80% of the variance in their colour preferences (a figure that is almost unheard of in psychological research). To take an everyday example, people who love the sea and the sky are more likely to choose blue as their favourite colour (the most popular choice) than are people who love parks and plants, who obviously plump for green (not far behind).  And the reason you’ve never met anyone whose favourite colour is brown is simply that few of us are fans of mud, rotting food and dirty nappies.

Palmer, S. E., & Schloss, K. B. (2010). An ecological valence theory of human color preference. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107(19), 8877-8882.

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