This research investigates the complex meaning of the color red, considering the ways its meaning can vary amongst individuals, cultures, and subcultures.
In examining the colour red, one of the most overarching considerations is establishing an epistemological framework between cultures. Friedman & Miyake (2004) investigated the extent language shapes human perception. This study primarily revealed that cultures with more complex vocabularies for designating colour subsequently perceived colour in different ways. In terms of red, this is significant as it is difficult to speak of a singular ‘red’ throughout world culture, but rather a series of approximating notions of ‘redness’ that are at best pragmatically linked.
This notion of redness has assumed symbolic recognition in global society. One of the most prominent such instances is the notion of red as embodying revolutionary ideas, or more specifically socialism and communism. Earl (1996) examined this thematic implementation of red in a variety of 20th century social contexts. Undoubtedly influenced by the Red Star communist symbol, as well as the Russian semantic linkage between red and ‘beautiful’, red came to acquire such prominent symbolic properties that countries with communist regimes were even referred to as ‘red’ countries. This symbolism extended to specific social movements; for instance, the perceived intrusion of communism into the United Kingdom and United States was referred to as the Red Scare.
While there is the distinct possibility that these political notions of redness were influenced by deeper human instinctual perceptions of red, the symbolic perception of red also varies across cultures. In this way, rather than ‘red’ purely embodying revolutionary ideology, the color also connotes passion and virility. For instance, from a comprehensive qualitative approach, red roses, hearts, or even candy harkens these essential qualities. Ball (2001, p. 43)