I have a memory from when I was young—five or six—and I asked my mom what her favorite color was. “Green,” she said. “Because I like trees and being outside.” It hadn’t occurred to my baby brain that there had to be any specific reason for something to be your favorite. I suppose it’s not so different when you’re an adult—you learn that there is almost always a why, even if you can’t quite make sense of it in the moment. Why do we gravitate to some bright rooms more than others? Why does that bright pillow make you feel some kind of way?
The “color-in-context theory,” conceived by psychologists Andrew Elliot and Markus Maier in 2012, muses that “the physical and psychological context in which color is perceived is thought to influence its meaning and, accordingly, responses to it.” How we understand color, they argue, is not so much