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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 57.djvu/384

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

ness of color nomenclature as regards blue and green thus indicates, though grossly exaggerating, a real psychological fact, and in this way we have an explanation of the curious fact that in widely separated parts of the world (at Torres Straits, among the Esthonians at Rome, etc.) as civilization progressed it was found necessary to borrow a word for blue from other languages.

There is almost complete harmony among a number of observers, now very considerable, in many countries, showing that the colors children first take notice of and recognize are red and yellow, most observers putting red first. There is no true predilection for these colors at this early age because the other colors do not yet seem to have been perceived. At first, doubtless, all colors appear to the infant as light or dark, white or black. That this is so is indicated by the experience of Dr. George Harley, who at one period of his life, in order to cure an injury to the retina caused by overwork at the microscope, resolutely spent nine months in absolutely total and uninterrupted darkness. When he emerged he found that, like an infant, he was unable to appreciate distance by the eye, while he had also lost the power of recognizing colors; for the first month all light colors appeared to him perfectly white and all dark colors perfectly black. He fails to state the order in which the colors reappeared to him. It is well recognized, however, that eyes long unexposed to light become color-blind for all colors except red. Preyer's child in the fourth year was surprised that in the twilight her bright blue stockings looked grey, while for some time longer she always called dark green black. By the sixth year all colors are seen and known with fair correctness. Among young children at this age, so far as the evidence yet goes, red is rarely the preferred color, this being more often yellow, green or blue. There is doubtless room here for a great amount of individual difference, but on the whole it appears that children prefer those colors which they have most recently learnt to recognize, the colors which have all the charm of novelty and newly-won possession. It is probable, too, that (as Groos has also suggested) the stimulation of red is too painfully strong in this stage of the development of the color sense to be altogether pleasurable, in the same way that orchestral music is often only a disturbing noise to children.

One may note in this connection that hyperesthesia to color is nearly always an undue sensibility to red and very rarely to any other color. The case has been recorded of a highly neurotic officer who, for more than thirty years, was intolerant of red-colored objects. The dazzling produced by scarlet uniforms, especially in bright sunshine, seriously interfered with the performance of his duties, and in private life red parasols, shawls, etc., produced similar effects; he was often overcome in the streets by giddiness, sometimes almost before he realized