Aesthetic Science of Color:
      WAVEs of Color, Culture, Music, and Emotion

Mira Dontcheva   Stephen E. Palmer, Psychology Department and Cognitive Science Program, U. C. Berkeley


Seminar on People, Computers, and Design
Stanford University October 16, 2009
, 12:45pm, Gates B01

Color preference is an important aspect of human behavior, but little is known about why people like some colors and color combinations more than others. Recent results from the Berkeley Color Project provide detailed measurements of preferences among 37 colors and other relevant aspects of color perception.  I will describe the fit of several models, based on cone outputs, color-emotion associations, and the ecological valence of colored objects.  The best model predicts more than 75% of the variance in average preferences from the Weighted Affective Valence Estimates (WAVEs) of correspondingly colored objects. I will also describe how hue preferences for single colors  differ as a function of object-type, gender, expertise, culture, and personality. Further results concern people's preferences for pairs of colors, which are well predicted by their perceived "harmony" with smaller effects due to preferences for the individual colors.  Individuals differ greatly in the extent to which they prefer harmonious colors, however.  These differences seem to generalize to other aesthetic domains, such as preference for simple, symmetrical shapes, good-fitting spatial compositions, and possibly even harmonious music, suggesting the possibility of “aesthetic personalities” across aesthetic domains.


Stephen Palmer (Ph.D., U.C. San Diego) is a faculty member in the Psychology Department (in the Cognition, Brain and Behavior group) at UC Berkeley, and has strong ties to the Cognitive Science program on campus. He works mainly on organizational issues in visual perception but also is interested in color. He is the author of Vision Science: Photons to Phenomenology (1999, MIT Press) and is currently writing a book about color.

The talks are open to the public. They are in the Gates Building, Room B01 in the basement. The nearest public parking is in the structure at Campus Drive and Roth Way.

View this talk on line at CS547 on Stanford OnLine or using this video link.

Titles and abstracts for previous years are available by year and by speaker.