Thanks for the memory…

Posted on Jul 26, 2017 | 0 comments

Recently I read that colour affects memory.  The brighter the colour, the more likely you are to remember the person who was wearing it.

Does that apply to what used to be called Purple prose or Purple passages?  These were the pages in a novel where two (or more) people had sex which seemed to take quite a few pages and involve alarmingly gymnastic feats which, over time took on more and more the tone of a sergeant major giving instructions on a how-to sex session.

Dowagers in Regency novels by Georgette Heyer, wore purple and it is often referred to as a royal colour.  Not meant for us mere mortals.  Then along came When I’m an old woman I will wear purple (Jenny Jones) and the novel, The Colour Purple (Alice Walker) and purple was in favour – well, among the literary types and those strident feminists who chose purple as their colour. But purple has never been as popular as red.

I can’t imagine anyone singing Solidarity Forever and waving a fawn flag, can you?  Maybe you’ve never sung Solidarity Forever?  Believe me, the flag has to be red.  Maybe red reminds people shivering with cold, what its like to be warm?   The Salvation Army Founders, Evangeline and William Booth, evidently thought red was the right background colour for their flag when they proceeded to gather in and save poor, starving working class men and women for Jesus.  Took a century or maybe a little more for them to agree that the word ‘people’ also includes lesbians, gays and transgender people, but they eventually got there.  Their slogan is Blood and Fire so it was red all the way.  The New Zealand Red Cross supplies help in emergency situations, organises meals on wheels and other community services such as First Aid workshops.

But –  let’s never forget that The Soviet Union chose red and that ended very very badly indeed for millions of working class and literary stars.  So the colour has no value as such, its the people who choose it as an emblem and then go flat out to associate the colour with good or bad outcomes that influence how it is regarded.

How I loved, still love, Deep Purple, by Hoagy Carmichael.  The simplicity and tenderness of it still can make me stop what I’m doing and listen.  But I can’t say that’s actually seeing it.  Another force is at work here.

I’ve been thinking about what it is that attracts us to different colours – why for example do I like red, purple and yellow when someone sitting next to me in a meeting looksbeautiful in the pink and cream she obviously loves?

Am I really more likely to remember someone wearing  red, purple or yellow, than I am to remember someone wearing pink and fawn?  I’m not sure this is right.  I have always had a propensity to forget names (laziness, I suspect) but remember faces.   I know that I know this person and that is usually enough for the name to pop into my head after a minute or two and if not, I ask.   I’m more likely to remember what people say than what colour they might have been wearing.  If they made me laugh then they could have been wearing a grey dress covered with fawn dots, a pale taupe scarf and and a pink cameo brooch and  I’d still remember them with pleasure.

I did an unofficial survey of six people.   Would they be more likely to remember someone wearing bright colours than someone wearing pale colours?  Three said they thought they’d remember people in bright-coloured clothes, more than the ones in subdued colours, two said they didn’t think it made any difference, and the last one said the one she remembers most vividly and will never forget is the one she met on Bondi beach in Sydney twenty-five years ago, when neither of them were wearing anything at all.












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