Would a rose smell as sweet if it were blue? Perhaps not, colours and odours are associated. People usually match strawberries smell to the colour pink or red and also it is found that more intense odours correspond to darker colours. Colour not only facilitates odour identification, but also it can affect judgments of intensity and pleasantness. An ambiguous combination of color and odor is not only confusing but can also lead to a sense of unpleasantness. Because of this co-occurrence of visual and olfactory experience, it should come as no surprise that cross modal correspondences between colours and odours exist. It is more likely that people would use the word ‘‘yellow’’ to describe the odour of a lemon, than the word ‘‘blue’’ if they were asked to use colour terms for describing their olfactory experiences. According to neuroscience, the neural correlates of olfactory response modulation by colour signals in brain areas identified as encoding the hedonic quality of smells. By using functional magnetic resonance imaging, has been shown a neurophysiological correlate of these cross-modal visual effects on olfactory perception. Subjects were scanned while being exposed to odours or colours in isolation, as well as colour-odour combinations that were scored on how well they matched. With the perceived congruency of the odour colour pairs, activity in the caudal regions of the orbitofrontal cortex and the insular cortex increased. Although traditionally this correspondence associated with the concept of synaesthesia, which is a neurological condition in which stimulation of one sensory modality causes unconscious stimuli in another modality, at least 20 peer-reviewed papers have been published in the last quarter-century that have examined the consistent and non-random existence of the colours that people intuitively associate with particular familiar and unfamiliar odours in a non-food sense (fig.4). Researchers have proposed several different reasons for the presence of cross-modal correspondences over the years, including mathematical, semantic, structural, and emotional-mediation accounts. It started with a long history of interest in the separate literature on synaesthesia, as it is commonly called (e.g., Azari, 1924; Baudelaire, 1857, 1954; Kandinsky, 1977). Several artists and composers, from Cèzanne to Scriabin (Hull, 1927; Runciman, 1915), to Futurist artists like Azari (1924) and Carrà (1973), were certainly involved in the correspondences, that connected colours and odours in the early twentieth century. However, one of the stumbling blocks to this early curiosity was that the concept was mostly thought of in terms of ‘synaesthesia,' or ‘syn-olfactismo,' as the Futurists called it. Contemporary researchers have focused on the distinguish between synaesthetic and cross-modal correspondences, the development of consistent mappings between colour and odour, and the use of learned associations as the primary explanatory framework. On the other hand, colour–odour correspondences are the result of learned associations in which the particular colour that people choose as corresponding to a particular odour varies from culture to culture. Within each culture, it is discovered consistent trends in colour choices for each odour, indicating that people make a specific colour-odour matches. The aim of this paper is to understand whether an inclusion of the sense of smell within the design of places can take place through synesthetic behaviour assisted by the use of colour. The paper is a scientific and cultural exploration of colour–odour correspondences, with suggested variables to be explored in design studies.

The Odor of Colors: Correspondence from a Cross-Cultural Design Perspective

A. Barbara;R. A. A. Mikhail;
2021

Abstract

Would a rose smell as sweet if it were blue? Perhaps not, colours and odours are associated. People usually match strawberries smell to the colour pink or red and also it is found that more intense odours correspond to darker colours. Colour not only facilitates odour identification, but also it can affect judgments of intensity and pleasantness. An ambiguous combination of color and odor is not only confusing but can also lead to a sense of unpleasantness. Because of this co-occurrence of visual and olfactory experience, it should come as no surprise that cross modal correspondences between colours and odours exist. It is more likely that people would use the word ‘‘yellow’’ to describe the odour of a lemon, than the word ‘‘blue’’ if they were asked to use colour terms for describing their olfactory experiences. According to neuroscience, the neural correlates of olfactory response modulation by colour signals in brain areas identified as encoding the hedonic quality of smells. By using functional magnetic resonance imaging, has been shown a neurophysiological correlate of these cross-modal visual effects on olfactory perception. Subjects were scanned while being exposed to odours or colours in isolation, as well as colour-odour combinations that were scored on how well they matched. With the perceived congruency of the odour colour pairs, activity in the caudal regions of the orbitofrontal cortex and the insular cortex increased. Although traditionally this correspondence associated with the concept of synaesthesia, which is a neurological condition in which stimulation of one sensory modality causes unconscious stimuli in another modality, at least 20 peer-reviewed papers have been published in the last quarter-century that have examined the consistent and non-random existence of the colours that people intuitively associate with particular familiar and unfamiliar odours in a non-food sense (fig.4). Researchers have proposed several different reasons for the presence of cross-modal correspondences over the years, including mathematical, semantic, structural, and emotional-mediation accounts. It started with a long history of interest in the separate literature on synaesthesia, as it is commonly called (e.g., Azari, 1924; Baudelaire, 1857, 1954; Kandinsky, 1977). Several artists and composers, from Cèzanne to Scriabin (Hull, 1927; Runciman, 1915), to Futurist artists like Azari (1924) and Carrà (1973), were certainly involved in the correspondences, that connected colours and odours in the early twentieth century. However, one of the stumbling blocks to this early curiosity was that the concept was mostly thought of in terms of ‘synaesthesia,' or ‘syn-olfactismo,' as the Futurists called it. Contemporary researchers have focused on the distinguish between synaesthetic and cross-modal correspondences, the development of consistent mappings between colour and odour, and the use of learned associations as the primary explanatory framework. On the other hand, colour–odour correspondences are the result of learned associations in which the particular colour that people choose as corresponding to a particular odour varies from culture to culture. Within each culture, it is discovered consistent trends in colour choices for each odour, indicating that people make a specific colour-odour matches. The aim of this paper is to understand whether an inclusion of the sense of smell within the design of places can take place through synesthetic behaviour assisted by the use of colour. The paper is a scientific and cultural exploration of colour–odour correspondences, with suggested variables to be explored in design studies.
Proceedings of the International Colour Association (AIC) Conference 2021
978-0-6484724-3-8
design, Colour, Olfaction, Colour–Odour Correspondences, Synaesthesia, odour identification, Cross-Cultural Differences.
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