The Psychology of Color

Though mostly under researched, color is a complex topic in psychology, not simply just a physical property. Colors all have certain psychological associations for people. For whatever primordial or physical reasons different colors tend to give us different feelings when we see them. Colors are important because each one (and its shades and hues) have a different “feel” or connotation to people. They affect the way we perceive everyday objects and images. There is a psychological first-impression left by colors.

Here are some common messages or moods that colors can communicate without words:

Black- Rest, recuperation, mysterious, practical, authoritative, contained, authority, power

Red- Confident, needs recognition, competitive, gearing up, emotionally intense, may be angry, stimulating, extreme
dark- hostile
light- exciting, distracting

Orange- Purity, virtue, idealism

Pink- Naïveté, pleasant, tender, not capable of responsibilities

Yellow- Gets attention, light side of things, optimistic, open, not practical

Blue- Tranquility, peace, cold, depressing, loyalty, productivity, strength

Green- Grounded, gradually growing, practical, sensual, natural, simple pleasures, creativity, giving, refreshing, fertility, dark- masculine, conservative, implies wealth

Purple- Royalty, wealth, sophistication, romance, artificial

Brown- Earthy, materialistic, conservative, reliable, may be wistful
Light brown- Genuine

White- Innocence, purity, sterility

Any marketer, graphic designer or artist cal tell you they are very important and can be used to make objects and images more attractive. The intelligent use of color can make things more psychologically appealing.

In fashion, black is a classic color that never goes out of style. It is neutral, slimming and sophisticated. Colors that are in style change with the seasons to symbolize and compliment the passing of the seasons in nature and our surroundings. For example, spring is often accompanied by assorted pastel colors come into style, to echo the blooming trees and flowers. The changing fashion of colors through the passing years can be seen as more of a an association with historical change. The changing of colors in products is a powerful marketing tool.

Researchers have found some interesting facts about color and appetite. Since humans in history learned to avoid toxic or spoiled food, blue, black, or purple can often make people lose their appetite. Green, brown, and red however, stimulate the appetite and are often used in restaurants’ color schemes. There is undoubtedly something instinctual about color associations.

The color you chose to paint a room can have effect on the moods of the people inside it. Research shows that people are most likely to lose their temper and babies are most likely to cry in yellow rooms. Maybe yellow is not so “mellow”. Seeing too much red can literally make people anxious. It is most popular as an accent wall color. In the world of sports, the home team will often paint their opponents’ locker room pink in order for them to lose strength. Pink is a tranquilizing color.

People have unique individual preferences or aversions to color. Some forward- thinking or new-age doctors or practitioners will test their patients (mainly through muscle-testing) for allergies to certain colors, and may prescribe for their patients to stay away from those colors that may make them weaker. Some people have religious reasons for their color aversions. They may not like black because they associate it with evil or the devil.

Perceptions of color are somewhat flexible and subjective. These are just current, basic and commonly agreed-upon associations, but they can very culturally or throughout history. Colors may have a stronger effect on our mental state than we think because their influence can often be subconscious. Try to see if you can gauge how colors make you feel and if you can change them around in your life to improve your day-to-day moods.

“Colors, like features, follow the changes of the emotions.” – Pablo Picasso

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