The Rainbow Connection

Through his physics experiments, Isaac Newton proclaimed that the rainbow possessed seven colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. But is that all there is?
When we look at the rainbow, we see seven major bands of color, but they are not sharply delineated. They blend into one another, creating more colours in the very fine paths where the light refraction shades into another band.

Newton, like many people, may have been a believer in the power of numbers, of which seven is one of the most significant. There are seven openings in our heads, seven days in a week, seven continents, and many other notable occurrences of the number.

The rainbows we see after a shower, (and sometimes during) when the sun comes out, run from red on the outside, to violet on the inside, or lower edge. However, the intensity of the colors is much greater near the base of the ends, and fades towards the upper middle. The width and strength of colour in each band, is dependant on the number of drops that form them. Rainbows may undergo fluctuations of intensity and visibility even as you watch.

Color comes from sunlight, although the suns rays are themselves, colorless. What a rainbow proves when the sun reflects through drops of moisture, is that all colors of the spectrum are present in sunlight, or white light.

How we perceive the color of an object, is directly related to how that item absorbs or deflects portions of the colour spectrum coming from the suns light. If we use an orange, as an example and set it out in the sun, light will fall on it, absorbing all the colors of the spectrum except those that are orange. That color is then reflected off the orange to the visual receptor, the human eye. Three people standing in a row, are unlikely to perceive the same shade or intensity of colour, but will generally typify it as orange.

Difficulty with the perception of colour, ranging from minor variances in shade to seeing reds and greens as yellow, to blindness that allows a person to see only black and white or shades of gray, affects some 8% of males, and .5% of females. Color blindness is the result of either inheritance through a female parent, where it has been a recessive gene, or through a degenerative eye condition. It does not affect treatment by color therapy, since the primary colors have delegated relationships to certain disorders and body parts/functions, and successful use of the therapy is not dependent on visual perception.

Color impacts not only on our visual senses, but also on emotional and physical being. In controlled studies, it has been shown that exposure to the color red, results in higher respiration, blood pressure and heart rates, than exposure to white, or blue, which caused the least reaction. Red has also been observed in some cases, to trigger epileptic episodes.

Psychology studies generally break the primary colors into two groups: the warm (reds, oranges, yellows) and the cool (blues, black, white). Warm colors are associated with heightened emotional reactions, including happiness, anger, excitement, daring, and temptation. Cool colors convey calmness, peace, impartiality, reason, and dignity. Certain colors have cultural or social relevance. In the Western world, black at one time was the only color permissible to wear at a funeral, with the family being consigned to dress only in that color for a year, moving on to the progressively lighter colors of grey, lavender, and white. In the West, red is associated with anger or rage, as in waving a red flag at the bull, a reference to the Spanish matadors capes being made from red material. In China, red is a color of happiness and celebration. Another ingrained social tradition in the West, is that of dressing boys in blue and girls in pink.

Color even impacts our dietary preferences. Blue, for example, is considered an appetite suppressant. Why? Because millions of years ago, when man had to forage for food, colors like blue, purple, and black, often were signs that an edible was decomposing, or noxious in some way. In todays diet, very few foods are naturally blue, besides the blueberry and a few species of potato. Consequently, the color blue lacks any particular attraction for snackers. Diet suggestions even include placing your food on blue plates, or putting a blue light in the fridge to tone down the delights of that leftover cheesecake.

In taste studies, subjects required to eat in the dark, reported a marked loss of enjoyment, even of favourite foods, proving that visual elements of eating, can be an important part of food consumption and sales. As for blue, you can now get blue M&Ms in your box (reportedly due to a consumer vote), and even purple ketchup (aimed at the childrens market, where almost anything that grosses out adults will sell).

Associations like these, whether social or psychological, have been capitalized on by manufacturers who carefully plan product and packaging colors, to correspond to the emotions/reactions the item is designed to produce, and the socio-cultural market that it will be sold in. Likewise, color therapy practioners, deal not only with the related body parts and colors, but with how color may affect a clients emotional/psychological receptiveness to the therapy.