[History] The Wine-Dark Sea: Color and Perception in the Ancient World by Erin Hoffman

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Homer’s descriptions of color in The Iliad and The Odyssey, taken literally, paint an almost psychedelic landscape: in addition to the sea, sheep were also the color of wine; honey was green, as were the fear-filled faces of men; and the sky is often described as bronze.

Our brains are pattern-recognizing engines, built around identifying things that are useful to us and discarding the rest of what we perceive as meaningless noise. … This suggests the possibility that not only did Homer lack a word for what we know as “blue”—he might never have perceived the color itself. To him, the sky really was bronze, and the sea really was the same color as wine. And because he lacked the concept “blue”—therefore its perception—to him it was invisible, nonexistent. … Very simply: if we don’t have a word for it, we tend to forget it, or sometimes not perceive it at all.

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[Joy] The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness Ingrid Fetell Lee

Cherry blossoms and rainbows, bubbles and googly eyes: Why do some things seem to create such universal joy? In this captivating talk, Ingrid Fetell Lee reveals the surprisingly tangible roots of joy and shows how we all can find -- and create -- more of it in the world around us.

An abundance of colourful and round or curved shapes make us feel joyful.

Color, in a very primal way, is a sign of life, a sign of energy. And the same is true of abundance. We evolved in a world where scarcity is dangerous, and abundance meant survival. So, one confetto — which happens to be the singular of confetti, in case you were wondering — isn’t very joyful, but multiply it, and you have a handful of one of the most joyful substances on the planet. … They put people into fMRI machines, and they showed them pictures of angular objects and round ones. And what they found is that the amygdala, a part of the brain associated in part with fear and anxiety, lit up when people looked at angular objects, but not when they looked at the round ones. They speculate that because angles in nature are often associated with objects that might be dangerous to us, that we evolved an unconscious sense of caution around these shapes, whereas curves set us at ease.