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Blue objects feel warmer than red objects


Posted on Sunday, 6 July, 2014 | Comment icon 14 comments

We have preconceived ideas about the temperature of objects. Image Credit: sxc.hu
The counter-intuitive revelation is in complete contrast to traditional concepts of color association.
Normally we tend to associate red with heat and blue with cold as evidenced by the colors on hot and cold bathroom taps, but now a new study has turned this idea on its head by suggesting that our perceptions might actually be the other way around.

Researchers asked a group of volunteers to enter a dark room and place their hand on a temperature controlled plate that would be lit up in either red or blue.

Each participant was then asked to state whether each of the plates felt warm to the touch.

"I was very surprised," said researcher Hsin-Ni Ho. "I think as most people, our expectation is that red objects should feel warm and blue objects should feel cold. We get a totally reversed result."

Scientists believe that the reason for this is that we have a preconceived expectation that the red plate is going to be warmer than the blue one and that as a result the red plate needs to feel hotter than would otherwise be required for us to believe that the object is unusually hot.

"When you look at a red object you expect it to be warm. You have something already in your mind," said Ho. "The contrast between the expectation and actual temperature perception will influence what you feel."

Source: Scientific American | Comments (14)

Tags: Red, Blue

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #5 Posted by MyOtherAccount on 6 July, 2014, 17:39
It is important research because it explains the disposition of the personality of Papa Smurf. (Well, actually all the Smurfs.)
Comment icon #6 Posted by Whisperer on 6 July, 2014, 18:24
"Researchers asked a group of volunteers to enter a dark room and place their hand on a temperature controlled plate that would be lit up in either red or blue." This is that part that got me fascinated because I would expect that since Blue is the wavelength reflected then red would be absorbed, giving the feeling of warmth...but since it was dark and the light was emitted, one has to wonder about the test and its results...
Comment icon #7 Posted by Ashyne on 7 July, 2014, 10:48
"Researchers asked a group of volunteers to enter a dark room and place their hand on a temperature controlled plate that would be lit up in either red or blue." This is that part that got me fascinated because I would expect that since Blue is the wavelength reflected then red would be absorbed, giving the feeling of warmth...but since it was dark and the light was emitted, one has to wonder about the test and its results... Most people here are confused about the article, but I already stated above, this research is not about which color is objectively warmer, it is about perception of the w... [More]
Comment icon #8 Posted by bLu3 de 3n3rgy on 7 July, 2014, 13:29
It seems pretty clear to me - they are testing expectation. They are testing to see if what is 'sensory perceived' under an "expectation", is accurate and close to reality or not. The test suggests that there is a mismatch between the sensory perception experienced for colour, when a expectation is used to trigger the sensory perception. This kind of study would have implications especially for the marketing and media world. This part here- When it comes to touch, what we feel might be strongly influenced by our expectations. “When you look at a red object you expect it to be warm. You have so... [More]
Comment icon #9 Posted by Rose-Red Howler on 7 July, 2014, 16:04
But anything showing up as a heat source is red, while blue means cold, and my oven switched on with hot rings shows red, not blue. Blue in a flame is the coolest part. Red and blue is to do with nature and how colours feel. Mental perception is based on the human senses. Yellow belongs to the red family and is also the colour of the sun.
Comment icon #10 Posted by :PsYKoTiC:BeHAvIoR: on 7 July, 2014, 16:26
Well, the argument depends on the application. A bunsen flame (with the collar air hole open), for example, will produce the hottest part close to the centre, just above the inner blue cone. Same thing with stars. Blue stars emit photons in the blue part of the spectrum. Blue photons have more energy than red photons. This means blue stars are generating more energy than red stars. Therefore, blue stars are hotter.
Comment icon #11 Posted by quiXilver on 7 July, 2014, 18:37
Most people here are confused about the article, but I already stated above, this research is not about which color is objectively warmer, it is about perception of the warmth of color. perception is reality it's odd and nominally normal simultaneously fun
Comment icon #12 Posted by JGirl on 7 July, 2014, 18:50
Red-colored surfaces needed to be about 0.5 degrees C hotter than blue ones before they felt at all warm to the touch. makes sense because your mind has the expectation of warmth, red needs to feel warmer to get your attention
Comment icon #13 Posted by RaymondEternal on 4 August, 2014, 13:21
And I thought red is warmer because it reflects light while blue is a slightly dark that it absorb more light...
Comment icon #14 Posted by PsiSeeker on 8 August, 2014, 19:22
Maybe to illustrate the point think of the scenario of lifting something that you expect to be a lot heavier than it actually is. You may perceive the same weight to be heavier when you don't expect it to be light. I think the key here is expectation adjusting perception and when the reality is off it skews the true nature of the object. There are certainly many more examples of expectation adjusting perceivable reality


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