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Does Barbie pink really exist?

Author: Katie Hart

Date: 25 Jul 2023


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Does Barbie pink really exist?
Photo courtesy of Jennifer Killens via LInkedIn

We are seeing it everywhere at the moment aren’t we? The Barbie advertising and merchandise machine has really done the movie proud. Barbie pink is everywhere…

Except that it isn’t. It isn’t actually anywhere.

You see the colour pink doesn’t really exist. In any form or shade. In scientific terms, the visible spectrum of colours that we human beings are able to see, are made up from different wavelengths of light. These range from 380 nms (nanometers) at the violet end of the spectrum, to 740 nms at the red end. However, nowhere in this spectrum will you find pink.

If you cast your mind back to your childhood and think about the colours of the rainbow and the mnemonic we have to remember them by (ROYGBIV) it has no P in it. Pink is not there.

As most primary school children will tell you, many of the colours we know and use, are formed when two neighbouring colours are blended together – orange comes from red and yellow, teal, comes from green and blue etc. But still, there is no pink in the classic blended colour wheel.

So why do we see pink?

When we perceive the colour pink, we are actually seeing white light, but without the presence of the green part of the colour spectrum. Effectively, the two colours which get blended in order to make pink, are red and violet – but they are at opposing ends of the visible colour spectrum, so it is scientifically not possible for them to be blended together.

So, our brain effectively invents the colour pink, it is our own creation.

What associations does it have?

Along with allowing our perceptions to essentially make up the colour pink, we also apply associations with it. Some of these which we acquire through our culture and upbringing, and some are more physiological in their nature.

At its most base level, pink is still used to denote female – indeed it is the currency of numerous gender reveals all over the globe. It is often associated with emotions, kindness, caring and other ‘traditionally’ feminine attributes. From softer tones which convey innocence, healing and peace, to the hotter shades which are more aligned to boldness, romance and playfulness, pink has a childishness to it which can indicate creativity and joy.

More than this though, as with all colours, seeing pink can subconsciously change our behaviours. Some shades of pink have been reported to have calming properties, and have even been used to reduce levels of aggression and violence in prisons and detention centres. They have also been used to decorate the ‘away’ changing rooms of an increasing number of sports teams, as some research suggests it makes people physically weaker and less energetic.

How does this make you feel about dressing girls in pink now?!

However, some of these effects can be quite short lived, with studies demonstrating that the benefits actually reverse over time. Although initially the colour pink calmed prisoners down, it actually made them more agitated when left exposed to the colour over an extended period of time.

And what of Barbie pink?

The ubiquitous Barbie pink is actually on the magenta side of the pink scale. This places it among those shades associated with warmth, love, passion and feminine sexuality. It is a truly iconic colour for a character who is permanently ‘coming of age’.

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