Samantha Davids and
Francisco Vargas
Heinz Werner (1890 – 1964)
• Born in Vienna, Austria
• Loved music; wanted to become a
• Became interested in philosophy and
psychology at the University of Vienna
• Joined the Gestalt movement in
Hamburg (1917)
• Dismissed from Hamburg because he
was a Jew in 1933 – moved to the USA
• Did research on developmentally
delayed and brain-injured children in
the US
• 1947 hired at Clark University
Key Terms from Werner
•Physiognomic Perception: reacting to the
perceived dynamic, emotional, expressive
qualities in an object that we feel within
•Symbol formation: a symbol is a word,
image, or action that represents something
else: an object, concept or event
•Dynamic Schematization: a directive,
regulative, form-building process aimed at
knowing objects
•Synesthesia: the syncretic unity of the
sense; an intersensory mode of experience
Werner and Language
• Children are very visual and use pictorial imagery
to describe and understand the world around
• Language is a medium of representation:
representing objects and abstract ideas.
• Werner thought that language emerges not from
an external source but rather from human
experience – and thus tied to cultural
• He noted that Native Americans were very
physiognomically oriented and that West African
languages were based on synesthesia
Do colors affect our emotions?
Have you ever been “green with envy,” “felt
blue,” or “seen red?”
“These are just a few of the ways [Americans]
have infused color into our language and
related them to our emotional state of mind.”
--Meola, 2005
Edward Sapir and Benjamin Whorf
• Sapir (1884 -1939): anthropologist-linguist
– B.A. and M.A in German philology at Columbia
– Taught at University of Chicago and Yale University
• Mentor to Whorf (1897 – 1941): linguist
– B.A. in Chemical Engineering from MIT
– Met Sapir at Yale
• Both interested in cognitive activity; the role of
language in cognition
• Both studied various Native American cultures
and langauges
Linguistic Relativity Principle
The hypothesis that human experience is
classified and ascribed meaning by different
linguistic schemes in varying ways.
“…users of markedly different grammars are
pointed by their grammars toward different types
of observations and different evaluations of
externally similar acts of observation, and hence
are not equivalent as observers but must arrive at
somewhat different views of the world”
-- Language, Thought, and Reality by Whorf
Whorf’s Theory
• Whorf focused on language in cognition.
– He argued that they are not always separate
– Did not claim that language’s function was to facilitate
• Socially generated and sustained patterns in
language become entrenched in cognition and
• Language sustains the complex matrix of mental
– Whorf elaborated Sapir’s cognitive model to show
how socially generated patterns may be internalized
and provided the foundation meaningful experiences
Whorf’s Theory cont.
• Linguistic operations are useful in determining “isolates
of meaning” – specific patterns in experience given
meaning to make sense of reality
• Each language fosters a particular way of
understanding experience – “picture of the universe”
• Prior agreement of meaning – may be explicit, but
more often implicit
• “multilingual awareness” furthers the progress of
science – aim to understand the core of human
conceptual capacity and the nature of reality
• Encouragement for individuals to become aware of
differences between speech communities
Studies on Color language and
• Barrett, Burkitt, and Davis (2004) discovered that children
consistently drew the positive pictures larger than the baseline and
with their preferred colors. The children did not consistently
decrease the size of the negative figures but did use their least
preferred colors
– In a later study, the same researchers compared cultures in a
similar set up and discovered that there was a significant
difference with regards to color difference was that green,
orange and blue were associated more often with the Western
children’s sad figure, while yellow was associated with the
Steiner group’s sad figure.
• Adelson, R. (2005, February) found support for the relativist
hypothesis when comparing the influence of color words on color
perception between English children and Himba children.
Nature vs. Nurture
Vygotsky Werner
Locke Skinner
Our Research Study
• To determine if the children with different
cultural backgrounds, as determined by
language, would associate different colors
with the emotions happy and sad.
• Hypothesis:
– there will be differences in color choices for both
Happy and Sad mosaics between children from
different cultural backgrounds
Personal Hypotheses
• 2nd and 4th grade from HFA
• Survey
• Two Stories
– Happy painting for the dentist
– Sad painting for the turtle’s funeral
2nd Grade Total Color Usage
14 Students
Most Often for
Happy: Red, Pink,
Yellow, Green, and
Blue, Purple
Most Often for Sad:
2nd Graders
7 Students
Most Often for
Happy: Red, Green,
Pink, Blue, Purple,
Most Often for Sad:
Green and Blue
2nd Graders
4 Students
Most Often for
Happy: Red, Yellow,
Green, Blue, Pink,
Most Often for Sad:
Red, Green, and
2nd Graders
3 Students
Most Often for
Happy: Red, Orange,
Yellow, Green, Blue,
Purple, Pink
Most often for Sad:
Red, Orange, Yellow,
Green, Blue, Purple,
Pink, Black
4th Graders
16 Students
Most Often for
Yellow, Orange,
Most Often for Sad:
4th Graders
9 Students
Most Often for
Happy: Purple
Most Often for
Sad: Green
4th Graders
6 Students
Most often for
Happy: Yellow,
Orange, Red, Green
Most often for Sad:
Purple, Black
4th Graders
1 Student
Colors Used for
Happy: Yellow,
Orange, Red, Purple.
Peach, Blue, Green,
Pink, Black, Gray
Colors Used for Sad:
Purple, Brown, Blue,
Green, Black, Gray
Conclusion from our Study
• In the 2nd grade, there were differences in
color usage between language groups for the
sad mosaic, but not so much for the happy
• In the 4th grade, there were differences in
color usage between all language groups for
both mosaics.
Some problems with the Study
• 2nd grade didn’t have privacy
• Turtle influence
• Too “neutral” of an
• Did not specify to use only
one color in each space
• Had to clarify some questions
– languages spoken at home
• Not enough variation in
“cultures” based on language
Changes we would make
• Pictures instead of mosaic –
like continuum of faces
• Limit the number of colors
they can choose for each
• Ask the children why they
chose the colors they did
• Find an established authority
on color psychology
Thank You!

COLORS AND MOODS! - University of Dallas