Sunday, 5 December 2010

500 word summary on Faber Birren's "Colour and Human Response"

500 words on Faber Birren’s “Colour and Human Response”

Another text that I studied last year in Design Studies, Faber Birren’s “Colour and Human Response”, though smaller in content than his Colour Psychology and Colour Therapy, it still proved to be a very useful resource. I chose to revisit these texts as they have proven to be the most indepth studies of my dissertation topic that I have found to date. In this text, Birren focuses mainly on the incluences colour has on life, “supported by historical references and the latest scientific data.” He touches on how colour effects humans, plants, insects, birds, fish and animals, providing a greater understanding of the versatile powers of colour on life. He gives thorough descriptions of the use of colour in relation the The Ancient Gods, how colour affects different cultures, and the significance of the Planets and the Stars.

Birren divides the text into 9 main sections, of which Emotional Response, Biological Response, Historical Background, and To Heal The Body were of greater interest to me. In the Biological Response chapter, Birren states that “the stimulation of red and other warm colours tend to increase blood pressure, pulse, respiration.” He notes that there is also an increase in brain activity and skin response, concluding that the subject’s attention “is directed outward toward the environment.” To counteract this statement, he shows that to physically and psychologically relax the body and mind, green and blue are effective and can cause the rate of functions in the body to lower, “with less distraction from the environment”. (Pg 66 & 67)

Whereas earlier in the text, Birren reviews the ancient traditions related to colour along with the mythology and superstitions that co-exist, the chapter To Heal The Body specifically deals with “the art of healing, both old and new”. Sub-chapter “The Fabulous Edwin D. Birren” shows that Birren appreciates American “magnetist and psycho physician” Edwin D. Babbitt, but does not “subscribe to his theories” developed throughout the 1800s. He states that Babbitt “formed an interlude if not an interruption to the progress of enlightened medical and surgical practice. Babbitt stands as one of the most singular men in the story of Colour Therapy.” (Pg 88) In relation to colour therapy, Babbitt wrote: “Red light, like red drugs, is the warning element of sunlight, with an especially rousing effect upon the blood and to some extent upon the nerves, especially as strained through some grades of red glass which will admit not only the red but the yellow rays, thus prove valuable in paralysis and other dormant and chronic conditions.”

The content of this text was more difficult to understand, and I found myself trying to decipher where Birren agreed and when he was making a point of arguing with the theories and ideologies he described. However, there are the four chapters in the text that I believe will be useful come dissertation time.

500 word summary on Faber Birren's "Colour Psychology and Colour Therapy"

500 words on Faber Birren’s “Colour Psychology and Colour Therapy: A Factual Study of the Influence of Colour on Human Life.”

American writer, Faber Birren (1990-88), has devoted his life to colour and it’s effects on human life. After writing around 25 texts on the topic, it would be safe to say his work is considered highly amoung colour experts and psychologists around the world. Birren’s work has a strong focus on linking how humans perceive colours to how it makes them react. He writes, “Good smelling colours are pink, lilac, orchid, cool green, aqua blue.” In his text Colour Psychology and Colour Therapy, Birren explores the work of several physicians, scientists and doctors, mainly the German psychoanalyst and physician Felix Deutsch. “His findings throw important light not only on medical practice with references to colour but on the whole psychology of colour.” (Pg 46, “Colour and Human Response”).

Faber Birren states that if a person prefers warmer colours such as hues of red and oranges, they are likely to me more aware of their social environment. He labels these as “warm colour dominant subjects.” On the other hand, those preferring cooler colours such as blues and greens, are categorized generally as “cold colour dominant subjects” and are recognised as finding it challenging to adapt themselves to new environments and situations”(Pg138). By splitting people into separate categories, based on their colour preferences, Birren finds himself able to establish a greater understanding of their personalities and characteristics. One experiment Birren explores in his text, courtesy of Kurt Goldstein, involves a subject standing before a black wall with his eyes shut and arms outstretched to touch the wall in front. When the subject is influenced by a warm colour such as the colour red, his arms deviate away from each other, whereas when under the influence of a cooler colour such as green or blue, even though the reaction is a subtle one, the subject will move his arms closer together. I find this experiment, simple as it is, to be fascinating in highlighting the strong effects colours have on our minds and bodies.

As well as distinguishing the differences in peoples’ character through his use of colour psychology, Birren also touches on the effects colours can have on the mentally ill, in this text. This section was the most interesting and involved a series of complex experiments such as discovering which neurological disorders were linked to which colours. Courtesy of the work by Hans Huber, it was proven that patients suffering manic tendencies preferred the colour red, a symbol of blood and anger. Hysterical patients were more sensitive to green, “perhaps as an escape”, the colour linked to paranoid subjects was found to be brown and schizophrenics are sensitive to yellow.

Birren states that persons troubled with “nervous (neurotic) and mental(psychotic) disturbances are greatly affected by colour and are responsive to it”. Therefore colour becomes much more significant to them, and affects them in a completely different way than those without such neurological disturbances. Chapter 12 Neurotics and Psychotics is the most compelling in the text as it relates to my dissertation topic. After struggling to find texts specific to my research subject, this text and its contents came as a welcomed discovery and I will be referring to Birren’s work throughout my further research.