Why Red Means Red in Almost Every Language


Many experts expect that science will eventually reconcile the relativist and universalist philosophies. “As is probably the case with all nature-nurture debates, it ends up being a bit of both,” Franklin says. In a 2008 study, she and her colleagues found that infants were quicker to recognize a color from a new category if it appeared in their left visual field, which sends inputs to the right hemisphere of the brain. Adults, on the other hand, were quicker to recognize a new color category if it appeared in their right visual field, which corresponds to the left hemisphere, where the language centers reside.11 The results hint at a tantalizing possibility: “As you learn the words for color, as your categories become more linguistic, they become more left-hemisphere dominant,” Franklin says. Sometime between infancy and adulthood, for mysterious reasons, color categories may pack up and move hemispheres.