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The Colour of Money

Do you remember ‘That Dress’? The one everyone was talking about last year? All over social media the debate raged – was it white and gold or was it blue and black? Ahhhh, so now you remember the one I am on about!

Colour vision is an amazing and intriguing area of psychology. We know quite a lot about the physiological process of colour vision, and how we compare to other animals and species, but what about the more experiential side of it?

If ‘That Dress’ proved one thing, it proved that we may not all see the same objects in the same way. This difference is indeed quite pronounced when it comes to the way the two genders see colour, or more accurately, the way they report colour.

Men and women frequently use different terms for referring to colours. Who would describe something as being ‘teal’ or ‘lilac’? Yes, women are much more likely to use descriptions like these, as well as ‘coral’, ‘dusky pink’ etc. By contrast, men use much less complicated terms. ‘Blue’, ‘light blue’ and ‘dark blue’ are more likely to frequent their vocabulary, than any suggestion of ‘cobalt’ or ‘peacock’ for that matter.

Conversely, men have descriptions they use which are not likely to appear in most women’s colour vocabulary. This is particularly prominent when you explore the green/yellow section of the spectrum. Here, we are inundated with references to bodily fluids and graphic descriptors. ‘Vomit’, ‘mucus’, ‘baby puke’ and ‘snot’, to name the more publishable ones.

So what?

Well, if you are trying to sell a product, you need to make sure you are using gender appropriate language to refer to it. One woman’s ‘pistachio’, becomes another man’s ‘goblin green’. If a male salesman is trying to endear a female customer to something, describing it as ‘bluey-green’ or ‘orangish’ is not going to appeal to her as well as calling it ‘turquoise’ or ‘amber’.

If you don’t believe me, just look at the names of colours given to nail varnishes, or lipsticks… Between you and me, I’ve just shown the lipstick I’m wearing right now to my husband to ask him how he’d describe the colour so I could finish this blog with it. After some consideration, “Fern” he said. Fern? Whatever is he on about I asked? And you know what his reply was? With a Cheshire cat grin he said “Fern one of your friends and ask her instead”…

I rest my case!