Institute of Media Studies

Colour Research

Meaning of colour

If we reflect on the diverse functions that colours take on, for example through colour coding in traffic or in science (e.g., in MRI or in other image-producing procedures), it becomes evident how often we have to rely on the semiotic system of colour ­– even in crucial cognitive contexts – which we often consider superfluous. The use of semiotically and symbolically different colours in different cultures has implications for the global economy, but also for the ever-expanding communication on the Internet. Considering the changes in the way we work as a result of digital media, it becomes clear how far-reaching the effect of colours are. Most people today, especially in industrialised countries, use computers for work and are regularly confronted with the design of user interfaces. These should be clear and easy to understand and facilitate orientation. In addition, many educational institutions are increasingly using e-learning, which must be designed to enhance the user's learning process. In the context of global use, the effect of colour in conveying knowledge depends on cultural colour preferences. However, the colour preferences of different cultures are also linked to structures of prejudice, especially in the evaluation of skin colour or gender representations. In the cultures studied, the symbolic connection between gender and colour, or age and colour, takes place under different auspices. The influence of colour on consumer behaviour also raises ethical issues, as most buyers are unaware of the subconscious mechanisms at work.

Aims and direction of the Research Focus

The aim of the research initiative is the multidisciplinary examination of the visual phenomenon of colour from the perspectives of media studies, neuroscience, social sciences, and cultural studies. Colour in different cultural constellations and contexts, such as gender, age, and religion, or as a means of finding identity, social status, or social distinction, will be recorded, mutual influences quantified, and their neurological foundations explored. In the field of empirical and experimental research, the University of Tübingen has excellent networking structures between the existing ColourLab of Psychophysics at the Institute for Ophthalmic Research, the newly established Zeiss Vision Science Lab, the Research Center for Animation and Emerging Media and the The Center for Media Competence. Visual culture is a new field of research that focuses on the question of colour. It combines theoretical and applied research. In addition to continuing the University of Tübingen's already intensive research into colour in the fields of psychophysics, psychology and media studies, new areas of research are developing in the Institute of Asian and Oriental Studies and the Department of Historical and Cultural Anthropology.