Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 50.djvu/377

This page has been validated.
361
THE POPULAR ÆSTHETICS OF COLOR.

THE POPULAR ESTHETICS OF COLOR.
By JOSEPH JASTROW, Ph. D.,

PROFESSOR OF PSYCHOLOGY IN THE UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN.

THE human race, like most large groups in Nature, presents a considerable variety amid a still more fundamental similarity. It is evident that, if only we measure finely enough, no two specimens, however simple, are precisely alike; and in proceeding from the simple to the complex the opportunity for variation and diversity rapidly increases; and yet amid all this diversity of individuals there is much that is common, typical, and similar. In mental processes, with which we are here primarily concerned, it seems fair to expect that, given the same premises and a fairly simple problem, similar conclusions will be reached by different individuals, owing to the similarity of the logical processes involved. But we know very well that when these processes are complex, and particularly when the emotions and interests of men are involved under substantially similar circumstances, very diverse conclusions may be reached, until, in extremely complex questions and in those in which personal interests are dominant, we find tot homines tot sententiæ.

Of all varieties of human judgment, the ones generally considered as least subject to rule and most open to caprice are those commonly referred to as questions of taste. These questions of taste refer partly to our individual and peculiar likes and dislikes, and partly to our more strictly aesthetic preferences and aversions. Æsthetic judgments, however, are subject to the influences of heredity and environment, of education, of general mental development, and the like. We speak of certain preferences as childish, as savage, as Philistine, as uneducated, as national, as local, as a fashion or a fad. In some directions it is possible to gather an aesthetic census and determine in a statistical way the distribution of particular likes and dislikes, and to attempt to gain from such material some suggestions of the underlying laws in obedience to which certain sense-perceptions are judged to be more or less pleasure-giving than others. The aesthetic relations and proportions of simple geometrical figures and lines have been studied by this method, and it is very readily applied, as is to be attempted in the present paper, to the study of the nature and distribution of color preferences.

The material for the present study was collected in connection with the Psychological Laboratory of the World's Columbian Exposition, held in Chicago in 1893. The public was invited to record its color preferences by means of a placard, which was