Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Wavelengths and Personality Types

Light is a funny thing. 

It behaves like an electromagnetic wave (it has a phase - it can undergo interference), yet it also behaves like a stream of particles (it consists of photons, as proven by Einstein's photoelectric effect).  The split personality exhibited by light has bewildered scientists for one hundred years.  And, while we will never see a photon with our naked eye, our eyes would see nothing at all if not for light.  These photons reveal the nature of the matter around us, but keep their own true nature under wraps.

The light that reaches our pupils may come directly from a source or it may arrive after a series of reflections off of other surfaces; either way, the light emanates from a source, like the sun or a light bulb.  Both of these particular sources produce what is known as white light. 

All electromagnetic waves, whether they are radio waves or x-rays, have a wavelength associated with them.  Visible light fills a very narrow band within the electromagnetic spectrum: 400 nm to 700 nm.  All wavelengths in this range correspond to a particular colour.  Violet light has a wavelength of 400 nm, while that of red is 700 nm.  A rainbow will have these colours on either side (violet on the bottom, red on top), and all other colours in between ordered by wavelength.  White light is what you get if you superimpose all colours in the visible spectrum on top of one another.  Black, on the other hand, represents the absence of colour.

With this background information on light, we can properly appreciate why a red sports car looks like a red sports car.  It is less obvious than you might think...

The sun undergoes fusion, a nuclear reaction, which produces, among other things, white light.  These white light rays travel in all directions at about 300,000 km/s.  After travelling a little over eight minutes, some of these white light rays hit the red sports car that sits before you.  Then, something critical happens: some of the white light is reflected by the car's surface, but most of it is absorbed.  In fact, the surface absorbs every wavelength of light with the exception of its own, red, 700 nm.  The 700 nm wavelength of the light is reflected by the surface.  These reflected light rays head off in many directions, including yours.  Your brain interprets this wavelength to be red.

So, while the car may be red, we could not make this deduction if not for a source of light that contains, at a minimum, this particular wavelength.  It is kind of like that falling tree... If an object is not lit up by a source, does it have a colour?

The car's red colour gives it a certain character.  And, while one's personality is more complex than a single data point along a spectrum, colour codes for personality classification are often surprisingly telling.

While some professionals balk at colour code personality tests, some psychologists stand by them.  Colour tests may not be 100% accurate, scientifically speaking (what in psychology is?), but such tests do hold some water.  By contrast, astrology used for fortune telling is about as reliable as a fortune cookie, but without the nutrients.

There are several colour spectra used to describe personalities; one such spectrum is orange-blue-green-gold.  Each colour corresponds to a set of values, which can go a long way towards understanding, and even predicting someone’s behaviour.  

A typical test will ask some questions about your preferences in life: by answering these, you describe your particular set of values.  Are you someone who values the company of family?  Under stress, would you like to retreat to a quiet place, or would you prefer to vent to a close friend?

Upon completion of the test (there are a number of free ones online) one is assigned one of the four colours, which associates most directly with one’s personal values.  No matter what test I take, I am always coded blue.  The blue personality type tends to value close relationships above all, and enjoys deep reflective and spiritual discussions.  I know this reads like a horoscope does, but it is based on my values (not the position of some random star with respect to our particular celestial body).

Returning to the white light analogy, a person's colour code is quite irrelevant unless he or she interacts with his or her environment.  Our environment consists of all colours, and the way we react to given situations (how we reflect light) tells the story of who we are.  Ideally, we absorb what we are not, and reflect what we are.  In so doing, we learn to understand others, and teach others to understand us.  However, unlike inanimate objects, people can choose whether or not to project their true colours to the surface.

There is no benefit to hiding behind a facade.  Suppressing who we are causes confusion to those around us, akin to that red car reflecting yellow light.

Can different personality types get along?  I sure hope so (my wife is a green).  Still, people with similar personalities will need to work less hard to understand one another.  Like colours see eye to eye.  Sometimes we say that two such people are on the same wavelength.  Colour-coding people by personality gives a new depth to this statement.

Of course, a gold may help an orange solve a problem, and an orange may help a gold conquer a fear.  Different personality types can often compliment one another in surprising ways; colours of different wavelength are no different.  One can dress in blue from head to toe, but it would make for a fairly bland outfit.  That being said, when different colours interact, there is a risk that they will clash.  But it is a risk worth taking, because more often than not, they create a pleasant contrast.

Living things differ from inanimate objects in their dealings with light in one other key way: in addition to reflecting it, they can project it.  Some indescribable source of light glows from within each of us.  Whatever colour you are, you have the ability to shine it, even in an environment of darkness.

We still have much to learn about the behaviour of light, and of course, as much or more to learn about ourselves.


Anonymous said...

"There is no benefit to hiding behind a facade. Suppressing who we are causes confusion to those around us, akin to that red car reflecting yellow light. "

Ideally that is true. But even the average person would, for example, make certain ingrained assumptions about the owner of a neon red sports car as soon as its relatively long wavelengths would hit their retinas. Such is the nature of subjectivity, in light and in life. Despite how much a person may feel that a hot pink tracksuit represents their warm and upbeat nature, a business interviewer would see it quite differently. When in doubt or in particular fear of clashing, it is easiest to reflect as little as possible - after all, black goes with everything.

The Engineer said...

Dear anonymous: that was some great insight.

May said...

It was interesting,
But I couldn't find my own wavelength,
Do you have a link?
I think it works (at least about you it seems true)

The Engineer said...

I just used http://www.gotoquiz.com/color_personality_test a few minutes ago.

It is a quick one. I was green/blue.