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Colors are Universal: People Worldwide Think of Colors the Same Way

First Posted: Sep 10, 2015 06:13 PM EDT

It turns out that colors are universal. Researchers have found that people from around the world think of colors the same way, regardless of the language used to describe it.

In this latest study, researchers looked at how a culture of nomadic hunter-gatherers names colors. More specifically, they examined the Hadza people of Tanzania, who have relatively few commonly shared color words in their language. During the study, the most common response by Hadza participants to a request to name a color was "Don't know."

With that said, the way that the participants grouped the colors they did name tended to match color-naming conventions of Somali-speaking immigrants and native English speakers in addition to many other cultures around the world.

"Looking at the Hadza data, we see a relatively modern color vocabulary emerging, but the color terms are distributed across the entire population," said Delwin Lindsey, one of the researchers, in a news release. "We captured a point in time culturally where the stuff for creating a complex color naming exists, but it's not in the head of any one individual. It's distributed in bits and pieces across the culture."

The new study actually provides a useful framework for thinking about how the terms that are used to describe things in our environment. In addition, the finding suggests that color naming is not a matter of nature versus nurture, but is more a combination of the two.

The findings are published in the journal Current Biology.

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