Look and learn
As soon as infants start to perceive the world in colour they express clear preferences for some colours over others. We consider what the purpose of these early colour preferences is by reviewing recent studies that have explored the role of colour preference in colour term acquisition. We show that preference for basic colours mirrors the dichotomous developmental order by which young children acquire basic colour terms. In addition, experimental measures of new colour term learning with non-basic colour terms (e.g. ‘vermillion’) or nonsense words (e.g. ‘cotram’) shows this association is mediated largely by differences in saturation, as both young children and adults prefer highly saturated colours to desaturated colours and they learn to associate novel colour terms to the colours they prefer. Together, these studies provide mounting evidence to suggest that colour preference and colour term acquisition are linked, although the mechanism underpinning this association remains to be determined.