Journal article

Most and Least Preferred Colours Differ According to Object Context: New Insights from an Unrestricted Colour Range

Humans like some colours and dislike others, but which particular colours and why remains to be understood. Empirical studies on colour preferences generally targeted most preferred colours, but rarely least preferred (disliked) colours. In addition, findings are often based on general colour preferences leaving open the question whether results generalise to specific objects. Here, 88 participants selected the colours they preferred most and least for three context conditions (general, interior walls, t-shirt) using a high-precision colour picker. Participants also indicated whether they associated their colour choice to a valenced object or concept. The chosen colours varied widely between individuals and contexts and so did the reasons for their choices. Consistent patterns also emerged, as most preferred colours in general were more chromatic, while for walls they were lighter and for t-shirts they were darker and less chromatic compared to least preferred colours. This meant that general colour preferences could not explain object specific colour preferences. Measures of the selection process further revealed that, compared to most preferred colours, least preferred colours were chosen more quickly and were less often linked to valenced objects or concepts. The high intra-and inter-individual variability in this and previous reports furthers our understanding that colour preferences are determined by subjective experiences and that most and least preferred colours are not processed equally.


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