Does colour preference have a role in colour term acquisition?


Correspondence should be addressed to Dr Nicola J. Pitchford, School of Psychology, University of Nottingham, University Park, Nottingham NG7 2RD, UK (e-mail:


A developmental association exists between colour preference and emerging colour term acquisition in young children. Colour preference might influence colour term acquisition by directing attention towards or away from a particular colour, making it more or less memorable. To investigate the role that colour preference may have in the acquisition of colour terms, experimental tasks of colour preference, discrimination, attention, memory, and new colour term learning, were given to three groups of participants (preschool children; primary school children; and adults). Each task utilized the same colour stimuli, which were four computer-simulated colours, matched perceptually to four different Munsell chips, drawn from the same colour category. Three colours varied systematically from an anchor colour (10PB 4/8) only in saturation (10PB 4/4), luminance (10PB 6/8), or hue (5P 4/8). Results showed that within-category colour preferences emerged with age, and that when established within individuals, most preferred colours were named significantly more accurately than least preferred colours, although this association did not appear to be mediated directly by attention or memory. Rather, perceptual saliency was shown to have a mediating role, to some extent, in determining the relationship between colour preference and the cognitive processing of colour.