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Eli D. Strauss, Karen B. Schloss, Stephen E. Palmer; The effects of imagined experiences of objects on preferences for colors. Journal of Vision 2011;11(11):392. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/11.11.392.
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The Ecological Valence Theory (EVT) posits that color preferences are caused by individuals' emotional experiences with color-associated objects (Palmer & Schloss, 2010). In support of this causal claim, Strauss, Schloss, and Palmer (VSS-2011) showed that color preferences can be changed by exposing people to affectively biased samples of colored objects that are strongly positive or negative. Exposure to positive objects of a given color (red or green) increased people's preference for that color. Here, we attempted to change individuals' preferences for red and green by having them imagine positive or negative color-associated red and green objects from their verbal descriptions. First, participants rated their preference for 37 Berkeley Color Project (BCP) colors. Second, they generated mental images from the verbal descriptions of objects and (a) selected the BCP color that best matched the imagined object's color, (b) rated the vividness of their mental image, and (c) rated their preference for the imagined object. Half of the participants imagined positive red objects (e.g., “raspberries”) and negative green objects (e.g., “slime”) whereas the other half imagined negative red objects (e.g., “wounds”) and positive green objects (e.g., “trees”). Both groups imagined neutral objects of other colors. When participants rated their color preferences again, there was a significant interaction between the change in color preference (before vs. after mental imagery) and the valences of the imagined objects: Participants who imagined positive red objects and negative green objects increased their preference for red and decreased their preference for green relative to those who imagined negative red objects and positive green objects. These results demonstrate that even imagined color-specific emotional experiences can influence color preferences. We also report the duration of the effects of perceptual (rather than imagined) experiences by examining the magnitude of the changes after a delay of 24 hours.
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