Navigating Barbie’s Monochromatic World

The dictionary definition of color is “the property possessed by an object of producing different sensations on the eye as a result of the way the object reflects or emits light.”

Color is important in our lives because it helps our brains digest information and it also facilitates memory. But it isn’t easy; comprehending an entire scene requires seeing an object’s color plus the surrounding light, like sunlight. In putting all this together, the brain needs about as much processing power for color as it does for recognizing faces.

So what would it be like to live in a world where everything is the same color, in Barbie’s case, pink?

Probably not good. A monochromatic world would desensitize us to color. According to Mike Webster, a psychologist at the University of Nevada, Reno, “We only see [Barbie’s world] as striking because it’s different from the world we live in—but it’s not striking to someone living in that world.” Barbie wouldn’t necessarily register the world as pink, but would instead likely see it as gray or neutral. “If she looked at our world, she’d be overwhelmed,” Webster adds. And not just because it’s pink. The reaction would be the same for any single color.

Also, our brains are always adapting, so colors are neither static nor objective. For example, according to Webster’s research, if someone grew up on Earth and moved to Mars, where the dominant color is red, their vision would quickly shift from reds and oranges to include more blues as their brain adjusted. And it’s unlikely this shift would even be noticeable. Adjusting to color is like adapting to the temperature of water in a hot tub; eventually the body acclimates and the heat fades into the background.

So don’t envy Barbie. To her, an all-pink world would seem quite drab.

Taken from “What Life in Barbie’s Dazzlingly Pink World Would Do to Her Brain—And Yours” by Timmy Broderick (

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