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Hue Are You?

By D.P. Sorensen
Posted // February 13,2009 -

The world can be explained as a stack of blues and reds.

Former mayor Deedee Corradini, despite her famous red dress, is definitely blue. And former mayor Ross “Sparky” Anderson, despite his favorite blue crewnecked sweater, is definitely red. The blue/red dichotomy being referenced here is the latest classification tool now available to people who like to divide the world up into two kinds of people. (It has been said that there are two kinds of people in the world: those who divide the world into two kinds of people, and those who don’t.) The blue/red dichotomy, known informally as the blue/red binary opposition, comes to us from Canada, where scientists at the University of British Columbia discovered that the colors blue and red bring out different qualities in test subjects: generally speaking, blue makes you creative, open and positive, while red makes you conventional, closed and negative.

At first, the scientists thought that responses to blue and red were purely conditioned by language and culture—think blue skies and red stop signs. Then they discovered a striking correlation between color preference and personality type. The clincher was an experiment in which toothpaste in blue tubes was preferred by creative, positive folks who wanted their teeth to be bright and shiny, while toothpaste in red tubes was the choice of uptight, negative types who were worried only about dental caries.

This experiment has been replicated by scientists around the world, and it is pretty much agreed that people are born with either blue or red dispositions. Any day, it is expected, geneticists will discover the genes responsible for blue or red orientations.

The new blue/red classification has several virtues, chief among them its infallible accuracy and the immediacy with which it can be applied. Older systems of personality typing have proved to be cumbersome and confusing. Take, for instance, the famous Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (or is it Briggs-Myers? I can never remember). In that scheme, you are labeled an ENTJ, or ISFJ, or INTP, or ESFP, or ENTP, or ESTJ, et cetera, depending on whether you are an Extrovert or Introvert, a Sensor or Intuiter, a Thinker or Feeler, a Judger or Perceiver.

Besides giving you a headache, the scheme violates the always-useful Occam’s Razor, which states that simpler is better (“entities should not be multiplied endlessly.”)

The blue/red division is similar in some ways to Marshall McLuhan’s distinction between cool and hot, the most famous exemplars of which were cool Jack Kennedy and hot Richard Nixon. But McLuhan’s categories were more specialized, in that they referred to the degree to which you had to “fill in the picture” when watching people on the tube or listening to them on the radio.

The blue/red binary opposition, on the other hand, offers a simple and foolproof method of classifying people. You know instantly whether someone is blue or red. Try it yourself: Orrin Hatch? Red. Bob Bennett? Blue. (It should be noted that reds and blues transcend political ideology, though in the nature of things there is a rough correlation between liberal blues and conservative reds, as in blue states and red states, with Utah, of course, being both red and a red state.) Marie? Red. Donnie? Blue. Jim Boylan? Blue. Kyle Whittingham? Red. Jerry Sloan? Red on the court, and blue off the court.

On the national scene, the blues and reds are even easier to spot. Obama is blue, McCain is red. Hillary is red, and Bill is blue (despite that he gets red in the face, for a number of obvious reasons.) George

W. is red, and Laura is blue. (Dick Cheney is a special case: long thought to be a red, it turns out his meanold-man act is actually a side-effect of loose dentures, and the tubes of red toothpaste in his Wyoming hide-away are now thought to belong to his wife.) Research has shown historical figures to be either blue or red. Jesus was blue, and that stickler St.Paul was red. The creative genius Joseph Smith was blue, and the Lion of the Lord Brigham Young was red. Religions should be blue (inclusive, open, welcoming, etc.) but most are exclusionary, prohibitive, and punitive, and therefore thoroughly red. (Buddhism is blue, but that’s because it’s not, in reality, a religion.) In a related development, officials at the University of Utah have looked closely at the new science of blue and red, and, convinced of the merits of its findings, are now going forward with plans to arrange a color exchange with the university to the south. CW


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