Friday, January 4, 2013

Why Is Color So Important?

This thought about perspective was inspired by recent medical news about the color of pills and by a slightly older story about the color of cars.  Perspective is about distinguishing between what’s important and what’s trivial, hence, living according to real values rather than values imposed by society.  People strong in perspective look past external appearances and tend to adopt a lifestyle based on moderation.  Common examples of poor perspective include the Black Friday stampedes and the accumulation of debt from buying to satisfy our wants and impulses or to impress others.

A key lesson is that appearances are often deceptive when it comes to judging what's really important.  Nevertheless, examples abound showing how people are overly influenced by external factors, in the following cases by color alone.

The first is a health report that came out earlier this week.  Studies show that when the color of medication is changed, there is a greater a tendency for people to stop taking it.  This occurred 27 to 50 percent of the time, and it is not a trivial problem.  “Failure to take a prescribed medication — a behavior known as non-adherence — costs $290 billion annually in additional health complications, according to the New England Healthcare Institute.”  Apparently generic medication, less expensive but identical to the brand name drug, may be manufactured by several companies.  They don’t coordinate with each other on the color, nor do they take great pains to maintain consistency within each company.  People look at their pills and don’t recognize them or are confused by the color.  Over-reliance on visual cues causes them to make poor decisions about continuing medication.

The influence of something as superficial as color extends beyond the health field.  As this article points out, “ [has found] that if a car is not available in the preferred color, 40 percent of drivers will decide to change brands.”  With all the factors involved in deciding which car to buy:  safety, reliability, fuel economy, price, warrantee, insurance costs, and others; isn’t it surprising that 40% would switch brands – Ford instead of Toyota or Kia instead of Subaru – just because they can’t find the color they want?  This is especially surprising since, when sitting inside a car, it’s very difficult to tell what color the car is!  The color is visible only to other people.  It could be ugly green or bright pink and you’d never know it until you got out.

When making major decisions, it's critical to put substantial factors ahead of superficial ones.  Based on these stories alone, color is one of those external factors that wrongly holds considerable sway in decision making.  A good New Year’s resolution might be to try to be less influenced by appearance and other external factors.  Maybe we can start with pills and cars and work our way up to people.

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