When I was a kid, I spent many a weekend afternoon in the Nova video tape library (my dad was a producer on the PBS series) watching science documentaries, one after another. The ideas and themes of those programs still influence my thinking about our work, particularly the ones that focused on how we understand and interact with the world around us.
A recent episode of Horizon (the BBC equivalent of Nova) explored a question I think we’ve all asked at some point: do I see the world the same way that other people see it? Is the color blue the same for me as it is for you?
The answer, it turns out, is even more interesting than I could have expected: our experiences create the colors we perceive. Colors, as we think we see them, don’t actually exist – they are a tool we use to distinguish between different things in our environment. And since our environments – including our languages and cultures – are different, the tools each of us develop to interpret them vary, sometimes more than you’d expect. I would argue that colors are similar to metaphors in this way; they are tools we use to perceive things. Understanding that we don’t all see the same world can help us step back and try to negotiate our differences rather than assuming that people who don’t agree with us would change their minds if we gave them all the facts.