A research team including Nobuo Masataka, a professor at Kyoto University’s Primate Research Institute, has found that boys with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) tend not to like yellow but show a preference for green. “Yellow may tire autistic children. I want people to take this into account when they use the color on signboards and elsewhere,” Masataka said.
The team, also including France’s University of Rennes 1, has confirmed the color preference of boys with the disorder, according to an article recently published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology. In the study, the color preference of 29 autistic boys aged 4 to 17 was compared with that of 38 age-matched typically developing (TD) boys. All participants were recruited in France, which has clear diagnostic criteria for autism spectrum disorder.
Shown cards of six colors—red, blue, yellow, green, brown and pink—the children were asked to answer which color they like. Yellow was liked by TD boys without the disorder but far less preferred by ASD boys. On the other hand, green and brown were liked more by boys in the ASD group than by those in the TD group, while red and blue were favored to similar degrees by both groups of boys. Pink was unpopular in both groups.
Given the relatively small sample size in each of the three age groups, the failure to find any difference in preference scores between TD children and children with ASD with regard to red, blue and pink might be attributable to a ceiling/floor effect.
The article said yellow has the highest luminance value among the six colors. “The observed aversion to this color might reflect hypersensitivity” of children with ASD, the article said. There is also a general consensus that yellow is the most fatiguing color. When yellow is perceived, both L and M must be involved. The perception of yellow should thus be the most heavily sensory-loaded of the perception of any type of color. Its perception is bearable for TD children but could be over-loaded for children with ASD whose sensitivity to sensory stimulation is enhanced.
Marine Grandgeorge and Nobuo Masataka: "Atypical Color Preference in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder," Front. Psychol., 23 December 2016, https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01976