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Wakako Fushikida, Karen Schloss, Kazuhiko Yokosawa, Stephen Palmer; Cross-cultural differences in color preference: Japan vs. the USA. Journal of Vision 2009;9(8):336. doi: 10.1167/9.8.336.
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We studied cross-cultural color preferences for the 37 colors of the Berkeley Color Project: 8 hues (unique-red, orange, unique-yellow, chartreuse, unique-green, cyan, unique-blue, and purple) × 4 brightness/saturation levels (saturated, desaturation, light, and dark) plus five grays. Forty observers in Tokyo, Japan, and 48 observers in Berkeley, USA, rated aesthetic responses to all 37 colors using a line-mark ratings scale. The hue preference functions (averaged over brightness/saturation levels) were very similar for Japanese and American observers, with a broad peak around blue and a trough around yellow-chartreuse. Reliable differences were present in preferences for brightness/saturation levels, however. In particular, Japanese observers had a greater relative preference for light colors, rating light colors higher than Americans did and rating dark colors lower than Americans did. Japanese observers also liked desaturated (muted) colors less than American observers for warm colors (chartreuse, yellow, orange, red, and purple) but not for cool colors (green, cyan, and blue). Some gender effects were similar in the two cultures, but others were different. Males in both cultures tended to prefer saturated colors more than females, whereas females in both cultures tended to prefer desaturated colors more than males. Japanese females also preferred relatively lighter colors more than Japanese males, rating light colors more highly and dark colors less highly than their male counterparts. No similar interaction was present in the American observers, however. A colorimetric model based on yellowness/blueness, saturation, and brightness/darkness explained 79% of the Japanese group variance, versus 60% for the American data. An ecological-valence model, based on the assumption that people like colors that remind them of positive things (sky, trees) and dislike colors that remind them of negative things (vomit, feces), will also be fit to the data to determine whether the cultural differences we found can be predicted by this model.
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