It was the year AD 975 when the word ‘purple’ first appeared in the English language. Purple is a range of hues of color occurring between red and blue. In additive light combinations it occurs by mixing the primary colors red and blue in varying proportions. It is a secondary color because two colors (blue and red) make up this color.
In color theory, a ‘purple’ is defined as any non-spectral color between violet and red (excluding violet and red themselves). The spectral colors violet and indigoare not purples according to color theory but they are purples according to common English usage since they are between red and blue.
In human color psychology, purple is associated with royalty and nobility stemming from classical antiquity when Tyrian purple was only affordable to the elites. The Tyrian purple was derived from the secretion of a sea snail and only in meager amounts, enough to dye only the trim of a garment worn for ritual purposes. In nature the snails use the secretion as part of their predatory behavior and as an antimicrobial lining on egg masses. The snail also secretes this substance when it is poked or physically attacked by humans. Therefore the dye can be collected either by “milking” the snails, which is more labor intensive but is a renewable resource, or by collecting and then crushing the snails completely.
One interesting psychophysical feature of purple and violet that can be used to separate them is their appearance with increasing light intensity. As the intensity increases, violet appears to take on a far more blue hue as a result of what is known as the Bezold-Brücke shift. The same increase in blueness is not noted in purples.
Lüscher says about violet, The mentally mature will normally prefer one of the basic colors rather than violet. Basic being red, blue and yellow. The mentally and emotionally immature on the other hand, may prefer violet. He goes on to say, in the case of 1600 pre-adolescent school children, 75% preferred violet. Statistics embracing Iranians, Africans and Brazilian Indians showed a marked preference for this color as compared with Euro-Caucasians.
Through my years in design, I have found that this statement is more cultural than emotional. In my old standby text, Interior Design and Decoration by Sherrill Whiton, in Psychology of Color, Psychologists maintain that color preferences are determined by geographical location, religion and socioeconomic background.
What are your thoughts on the color purple? Do you surround yourself with purple? Do you wear purple?
Would you like purple hair, or a streak of purple hair?