Colours Perspective

Where did the phrase “Seeing The World Through Rose-Coloured Glasses” come from?

Round-framed glasses on a piano

The phrase “seeing the world through rose-coloured glasses” means that a person can only see the good qualities of something. Be optimistic.

The idiom is about an unduly optimistic, idealistic, cheerful, sentimental and wistful perspective on or about something. The comment comes from looking through life with a rosy perspective. The origins of the phrase are unclear but in the 1700’s “rose” and “rosy” meant to be optimistic about outcomes.

The phrase also shares a colour theory that tinted-glass lenses can be used as a therapeutic device to treat many ailments. Samuel Pepys (1633-1703), a 17th-century member of the British parliament and diarist, used green-lensed glasses made by spectacle maker John Turlington to alleviate sore eyes in the winter of 1666 because he believed it was caused by working at candlelight.

But optimism is essential to survival and beneficial to health. We expect the future to be great, even if facts and research tell us otherwise. Optimistic people tend to work harder and be cooperative because they believe in good outcomes in their tasks and life. While pessimists make negative and unstable decisions that badly affect the outcomes of their lives. Neuroscientist Tali Sharot said that “anticipating something wonderful seems to activate the same neural systems as experiencing it,” in her 2012 book The Optimism Bias: A Tour of the Irrationally Positive Brain about the effects of optimism on the brain.

A chicken wearing visors. Visors underneath chicken with inventor's signature. Image in black and white.
Image of the 1903 patent filed by Andrew Jackson Jr. Source: Wikipedia.

Chickens wore red-tinted glasses to prevent cannibalism and feather pecking of the other chickens in the early 1900s. They were small visors that went over their eyes with the lenses tinted red. When the chickens see something that looks like blood, it tends to curb abnormal injurious behaviour and focus on the grain on the ground. The chickens don’t even notice that they were wearing the small visors. In 1903, the glasses were sold to farmers as eye protectors for chickens by Sears-Roebuck through mail order.

Banner Credit: Image by đź‘€ Mabel Amber, who will one day from Pixabay
Further Reading:

The Optimism Bias: A Tour of the Irrationally Positive Brain by Tali Sharot (Book, 2012)

The Pink Book: An Illustrated Celebration of the Color, from Bubblegum to Battleships, Kaye Blegvad (Book, 2019)


All About Vision – Rose-colored glasses show us the world in a better light

National Post – Hardwired for optimism: Why we see things through rose-tinted glasses

Penn State – The benefits of optimism

American Centuries – Spectacles

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