Colour palette size: men vs. women

I was busy dropping off a comment on Phil’s blog about how to find a wedding planner (along with the pre-requisite of someone to accompany him at the formalities), and I struck upon one of the fundamental differences between men and women. Namely, the size of their colour palette.

You see, I have a 3-bit RGB colour palette, with the optional addition of a “light” or “dark” qualifier. If we’re getting adventurous, two such colours can be explicitly summed. As an example, “lilac” should not be acceptable as a colour – in reality it is “light purple”. Or how about “apple blossom white”? In reality it’s “white”, with a hint of “light green”. Easy isn’t it?

Now we come to the women. Here things get horrendously complex. My wife, for example, can pick out the difference between a Dulux “Sweet Pink” and a “Pretty Pink” at a hundred paces. For me, that’s “light pink” vs. “light pink + light purple”.

Anyone care to let me in on the secret?


  • Caution! Science Alert!

    Some women have the physical advantage of having four types of colour receptor – two of which peak in a different parts of what we would probably call blue. Colour sensors are coded-for on the X chromosome, and these are the phenotypes of 2 alleles at the same locus, so no chromosomally XY man can have both until some further mutation occurs. That’s why men are more often colour blind.

    An interesting consequence of this is that any mental-colour-perception gene is more likely to benefit a woman than a man, because women are physically more likely to be able to distinguish colours than men. So, it would behoove it to collaborate well with other genes which are favourable for women (for other reasons) and it’s quite reasonable to expect it to become partially if not totally sex-linked.

  • Nah, I just think women have more time on their hands…