Go Ahead and Stare

Do you feel weak? Maybe that's because you had a Rice Krispie treat for lunch. Or maybe you're undergoing the physiological effects of pink. We don't mean to suggest that you are suffering from an eye infection, listening to "Get the Party Started," or that you're wearing a pair of sweatpants with PINK emblazoned on the rear. While you may very well be doing all of those things right now, we were hoping that the color of these pages would make you feel like a 12-year-old girl in an interrogation room.

And that's science.

Just ask the U.S. Navy. At the behest of a researcher, they used the color to calm military prisoners. We aren't talking some guy who cheated on his taxes here. In his book, The Power of Color, Morton Walker outlined the work of that researcher, Alexander Schauss, Ph.D., director of the American Institute for Biosocial and Medical Research in Tacoma, Wash. Schauss was the first to report the suppression of angry, antagonistic and anxiety-ridden behavior among prisoners exposed to certain shades of pink. "Even if a person tries to be angry or aggressive in the presence of pink, he can't. The heart muscles can't race fast enough. It's a tranquilizing color that saps your energy," Schauss said. And he suggests that the effects are physiological: "Even the color-blind are tranquilized by pink rooms."

Baker-Miller pink (aka "drunk-tank pink") has since been used, with proven results, to calm violent prisoners in jail. The next time your over-emphatic boss is sputtering at you, perhaps you'll want to hold up this magazine and wave it at him as if you're a bullfighter (except, you know, in reverse).

So, pink is for little girls and drunk tanks and happiness and Julian Schnabel's West Village condo building, Palazzo Chupi. Of course, pink is a tint and not really a color, according to Jill Morton, CEO of Honolulu-based color consulting firm Colorcom. "So, the message largely depends on the shade," she says. There is a big difference, for example, between a blue-based berry and an orange-based salmon. "I've conducted a lot of research about pink and the effects of colors, and have concluded that the reactions are personal." But not to worry, Morton says, because "no effects are permanent."

Artist, color theorist and professor Bruce MacEvoy (who recently experimented with the effects of color on community standards by painting his home "a lovely shade of violet") sniffs at pink's effect. "This is one of those research areas that has more wash cycles than a laundromat," he says. "Pink is now the quiet color. ... A decade ago I believe that role was assigned to a dull green, still in use in some former Soviet block and Scandinavian countries. Contemporary pinkists are very particular about the shade of quietist pink they mean; although, if you look at any study of individual variation in color perceptions among 'normal' viewers - for example, individual choices of 'a yellow that contains no red and no green' - you discover really large differences in what a color 'looks like.'" For him, how we perceive color depends less on shades and personal associations than how it is presented: "Printing a text article on a pink page is similar to serving food on a pink plate or asking someone to assemble a watch made of pink parts. Color effects are generally put in the context of environmental, attire or product uses that are independent of the parts involved in a task activity." So if you suddenly feel like wearing ladies' underwear or confessing to killing your neighbor's cat, that is your problem. We're just trying to make a pretty magazine.
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