“Seeing red” is real. But how does it happen?


The scientific reason your world brightens up when you do

This study affirms some common observations about color perceptions and emotional states. When one is enraged, the color red appears more vivid in one’s perceptions; when depressed, the color blue. When one feels elated, all colors appear brighter, and in times of severe depression color perception can all but disappear; the world looks black and white.  Or, perhaps, bleak and white.

The study attempts, and IMO fails, to attribute these things to the activity of neurotransmitters such as dopamine.  But there is no finding of direct action by such neurotransmitters on the color-perceiving apparatus of the visual cortex.

The effect of emotions, or affect, on perception has profound ramifications for how one chooses one’s conduct, and even for how one handles situations of conflict, whether interpersonal or political.  I have written elsewhere:

Why feelings count first

Earlier I said, “We are all continuously connecting the dots.” This activity does not occur in a vacuum. We each see the world through rose-colored — or other-colored — glasses.

One’s affect controls one’s choice of which dots to connect and which to ignore; it may even control which ones one can see.

(Rose-colored glasses:  “Seeing red” is a real phenomenon.  One sees the world through one’s own aura, the colors of which correspond to one’s affect; whether one is aware of it or not.  As a result, colors of objects in one’s environment appear more or less vivid as they correspond (or not) to the current auric colors.  We use this unawares in, for example, choosing the clothes to wear on a given day: an outfit that may be too quiet or too loud today may be just right tomorrow.  Certainly in cognition, like effects make some facts more prominent and others perhaps invisible in a given situation.)

The stalemate between ideologies in the U.S. today boils down to an inability to agree on what facts are pertinent to any given question. Each party preoccupies itself with data that the other party ignores or denies — or may not even be able to “see.” An immediate example is a current disagreement with my pastor: he is very concerned about injustice as an effect of “the system,” whereas no “system” is perceptible to me.

[One’s affect] determines how one will choose to connect [the dots]. It determines what makes up one’s reality; and, obviously, how one feels toward those whose realities differ from one’s own.

One’s affect thus controls one’s thinking. The memories most easily accessed are those of past times when one has felt the same way. One’s affect determines what data one will admit as being pertinent to an immediate question, and what data one will reject as irrelevant. It selects data that will justify itself.

Rationality can only act on the data one has chosen to admit. The conclusions one draws will inevitably, in return, justify that affect that chose them.

One inevitably regards any course of action one desires, as thus justified also.

One will rationalize any conclusion one desires, and any course of action one desires.

If someone throws you a bright smile or a dark glance, it’s real. It won’t appear in any photograph, however. You see it with the eyes of your soul.

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