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Monday, December 27, 2010

The Meaning of Color for Gender

What we see and interact with is in color, includes both natural and built environments. About 80% of the information which we assimilate through the sense, is visual. However, color does more than just give us objective information about our world-it affects how we feel. The presence of color become more important in interior environment, since most people spend more time inside than outside.

Is there a gender difference in response to color? Although findings are ambiguous, many investigations have indicated that there are differences between gender in preferences for colors. Early investigations done by by Guilford (1934) on the harmony of color combinations found that a person is likely to see balance in colors that are closely related or the opposite. Guilford also found some evidence that more pleasing results were obtained from either very small or very large differences in hue rather than medium differences, with this tendency more frequent in women than men.

A review of color studies done by Eysenck in early 1940's notes the following results to the relationship between gender and color. Dorcus (1926) found yellow had a higher affective value for the men than women and St. George (1938) maintained that blue for men stands out far more than for women. An even earlier study by Jastrow (1897) found men preferred blue to red and women red to blue. Eysenck's study, however, found only one gender difference with yellow being preferred to orange by women and orange to yellow by men. This finding was reiforced later by Birren (1952) who found men preferred orange to yellow; while women placed orange at the bottom of the list.

Guilford and Smith (1959) found men were generally more tolerant toward achromatic colors than women. Thus, Guilford and Smith proposed that women might be more color-concious and their color tastes more flexible and diverse. Likewise, McInnis and Shearer (1964) found that blue green was more favored among women than men, and women preferred tints more than shades. They also found 56% of men and 76% of women preferred cool colors, and 51% men and 45% women chose bright colors. In a similar study, Plater (1967) found men had a tendency to prefer stronger chromas than women.

Rikard Kuller (1976) conducted a study on the effects of color in two opposite environments. Six men and six women were asked to stay in two rooms, one room was colorful and complex; while the other was gray and sterile. Electroencephalogram (EEG) and pulse rates were recorded throughout the period, as well as the individuals' subjective emotional feelings. The results showed heart rates were faster in the gray room than in the colorful room. Moreover, men were found to have stress reactions more than women. Men also became more bored than did the women in the gray room. Kuller also postulated that men could not achieve the same degree of mental relaxation as women.

Thomas, Curtis, and Bolton (1978) interviewed 72 Nepalese and asked them to list the names all the colors they could think of. There was a significant difference between men and women. Although, the women consistently listed more color names than men did, the cultural context of this study must be noted since Nepalese women traditionally wear more colorful clothing than men do. A similar study by Greene (1995) examined the color identification and vocabulary skills of college students. They were asked to identify the colors of 21 color chips. The results showed that women recognized significantly more elaborate colors than did the men. Findings also indicated that gender different responses in color identification may be attributed to a difference in the socialization of men and women.

Another study examined the appropriateness of colors used on the walls of a simulated domestic interior furnished in one of three styles; Georgian, Art Nouveau and Modern. Whitfield (1984) reported that internal consistency among women is higher than for men. When the study was broadened to include marital status, married women achieve significantly more internal consistency in each condition of the three styles than did the men.
More recently, Radeloff (1990) has found that women were more likely than men to have a favorite color. In expressing the preferences for light versus dark colors, there was no significant differences between men and women; however, in expressing the preference for bright and soft colors, there was a difference, with women preferring soft colors and men preferring bright ones.