Name a color – the first one that pops into your head. Now, pick a number between zero and nine.
If you're like many people around the world, you picked blue and seven. In fact, in studies from around the globe, people tended to pick blue and seven so often that it has a name, the blue-seven phenomenon.
Maybe you're saying, "Wait a minute, I didn't pick blue or seven." Well, of course not everyone does, but proportionately more people make those two selections. For example, in the first such study to identify the phenomenon – 1971 in the U.S. – 40 percent of people selected blue and 30 percent selected seven. Both choices were also the favorites of people in Kenyan and Australian studies.
So, the question is, why?
Researcher and professor Miho Saito took a look at some of the existing data and proposed a few explanations in her own study on Japanese students. Here, 37 percent picked blue and 22 percent picked seven, the top choices.
It turns out blue is not considered taboo in any culture, which might help explain its universal appeal. Subjects selected favorite colors that were connected to feelings of pleasantness and described by those surveyed as beautiful, agreeable and bright. Red – another beautiful and bright color – and white were also popular choices, with white being reported as "clean, chaste, neutral and light," according to Saito's study.
When she asked people why they chose seven, she found that seven was considered a lucky number and represented happiness. She also discovered that the other top contenders for preferred numbers were odd numbers too – odds were chosen 68 percent of the time. But there were gender differences. Men selected the number one more than women, saying it represented being No. 1 or "top." Women selected five more often than men, for reasons as varied as liking the shape to it representing a birthday.
Next up, Saito plans to research whether these preferences are innate or a result of cultural conditioning.