Understanding how cultures around the world label colors — and in what order they do so — might seem like a daunting undertaking, but surprisingly it’s not. Vox video producer Christophe Haubursin and his colleague, graphic designer Amanda Northrop, reveal interesting commonalities among cultures in their recently published video below.
They begin with a groundbreaking study published in the 1960s:
In 1969, two Berkeley researchers, Paul Kay and Brent Berlin, published a book on a pretty groundbreaking idea: that every culture in history, when they developed their languages, invented words for colors in the exact same order. They claimed to know this based off of a simple color identification test, where 20 respondents identified 330 colored chips by name. If a language had six words, they were always black, white, red, green, yellow, and blue. If it had four terms, they were always black, white, red, and then either green or yellow. If it had only three, they were always black, white, and red , and so on. The theory was revolutionary — and it shaped our understanding of how color terminologies emerge.