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American Perception of Color Influences

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The American perception of color influences our culture and even our thought processes. Our culture, through language, guides us in seeing the color spectrum in terms of the arbitrarily established categories that we call colors. The colors we see are predetermined by what our culture prepares us to see. All normal humans share similar perceptions of color despite differences in color terminology from one language to another.

Americans associate the color black with death, evil, negativity and depression. The Spanish culture is similar to the American culture. We wear black to a funeral as a symbol of mourning. As a Christian, anytime evil is mentioned at my church it is always related to the color black. The black spirits are considered evil. White relates to purity, goodness and salvation. I remember growing up in the Catholic Church where we were baptized. We had to wear white dresses for our baptism. In baptism you are being renewed and purified. Now that I am older I attend a non-denominational Christian church. Young ladies are required to dress in white at purity gatherings at our church as a sign of purity.

When I think of the color yellow I think of spring, new beginnings, mellowness and sometime moodiness. I was speaking to several co-workers in regard to the color yellow and we all thought of spring. In the spring we change curtains, do spring cleaning, paint and enjoy the nice bright yellow sun. The color blue can also be referred to as sadness, tiredness, heartbreak and gloominess. In times of financial struggle my husband always tells me that I am feeling blue due to finances. Red is hot, passion, danger and love. When teaching my kids to not touch the stove because it's hot I always refer to the color red. On Valentine's Day my husband gets me a dozen red roses as an expression of love.

I spoke to friend from church that is Japanese. In the Japanese culture the color yellow means courage. She stated that they would always refer to yellow as bravery and valor. To someone who is Buddhist this color signifies sacredness. A white carnation in Japan symbolizes death. The color red in the Buddhist religion symbolizes fertility and childbirth. In Japan the color also signifies heroism. Blue can also symbolize peace, calmness, stability, security, loyalty, sky, water, cold, technology, and depression. The color black is powerful and foreboding in the Japanese culture.

Different cultures may divide up the color spectrum in different ways. This can be seen in the comparison of the American language colors with the Japanese cultural perception of color. If we continue to compare the observation of colors in various cultural contexts we can see that each individual culture has unique perceptions.

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