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Eli D. Strauss, Karen B. Schloss, Stephen E. Palmer; The Good the Bad and the Ugly: Effects of Object Exposure on Color Preferences. Journal of Vision 2010;10(7):410. doi: 10.1167/10.7.410.
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Palmer and Schloss (submitted) proposed an Ecological Valence Theory (EVT) of color preferences, which states that color preferences are determined by individuals' emotional experiences with objects characteristically associated with those colors. An implication of the EVT is that an individual's color preferences change as he/she has new emotional experiences with colored objects. The present experiment tests whether exposing subjects to emotional objects of particular colors produces a reliable change in preferences for those colors. Participants first rated their color preferences for the 37 BCP colors. Half then completed four “spatial aesthetics” tasks in which they were exposed to positive green images (e.g., trees and grass) and negative red images (e.g., wounds and lesions), and the other half did the same with negative green images (e.g., slime and mold) and positive red images (e.g., berries and roses). Both groups also saw neutral objects of other colors. The “spatial aesthetics” tasks were designed to insure that participants had processed the content of the images: judging whether a verbal label was appropriate, clicking on the center of the focal objects, rating the complexity of the image, and rating their preference for the depicted object. Following these four tasks, participants rated their color preferences again, and difference scores were computed for the corresponding red and green colors. There was an interaction between the change in color preference and the images viewed: Those who saw positive images of a given color (either red or green) showed an increase in preference relative to those who saw negative images of the same color. These results provide causal evidence in support of the EVT by showing that exposure to (or priming of) emotional objects of a particular color can increase or decrease preference for that color, depending on the emotional valence of the objects.
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