By Gary, on November 25th, 2012
Colors, like features, follow the changes of the emotions. – Pablo Picasso
Are you sensitive enough to feel different when the colors around you are changed? It doesn’t matter how sensitive you are – we are psychological and biological creatures and we do feel differently around different colors whether we are completely aware of these feelings or not.
Your feelings about a color can also be rooted in your culture or your own personal experience. White, for example, means purity and purple means royalty and red means power, etc.
Artists along with interior designers have an understanding about how color can dramatically affect moods, feelings and emotions. Color is a powerful communication tool and can be used by authorities, such as prison designers to influence mood and cause physiological reactions.
What Is Color? It is light passing through a prism. This changes the wave length of the light and thus a color is created. Sir Isaac Newton is credited with this discovery in 1666.
Further experiments showed that you could make other colors by combining colors. For example you can create orange by combining red and yellow. Some colors, such as yellow and purple, cancel each other out when mixed and result in a white light.
Let’s discuss the psychological effects of color.
Some colors have universal meaning and effect. There are warm colors and cool colors. The warm colors are from the red area of the spectrum and the cool colors are from the blue area of spectrum.
Color Psychology as Therapy
Several ancient cultures, including the Egyptians and Chinese, practiced chromo therapy, or using colors to heal. Chromo therapy is sometimes referred to as light therapy or color-ology and is still used today as a holistic or alternative treatment.
In this treatment:
Red was used to stimulate the body and mind and to increase circulation.
Yellow was thought to stimulate the nerves and purify the body.
Orange was used to heal the lungs and to increase energy levels.
Blue was believed to soothe illnesses and treat pain.
Indigo shades were thought to alleviate skin problems.
Although most psychologists view color therapy with doubt, research has shown that in many cases the mood altering effects of color are effective but short-termed.
Studies have shown that certain colors have an impact on performance. When students are exposed to red before an exam then tend to do worse on the test. More recently, research as revealed that athletes have greater speed and strength when exposed to red during athletic events.
Let’s do a brief description of psychological effects for the following basic colors:
Black, White, Red, Blue, Green, Purple, Yellow, Brown, Orange, Pink
The Color Psychology of Black
- Absorbs all light in the color spectrum.
- Often used as a symbol of menace or evil, but it is also popular as an indicator of power. It is used to represent treacherous characters such as Dracula and is often associated with witchcraft.
- Associated with death and mourning in many cultures. It is also associated with unhappiness, sexuality, formality, and sophistication.
- In ancient Egypt, black represented life and rebirth.
- Black is often used in fashion because of its slimming quality.
The Color Psychology of White
- Represents purity or innocence.
- White is bright and can create a sense of space or add highlights.
- Described as cold, bland, and sterile. Rooms painted completely white can seem spacious, but empty and unfriendly. Hospitals and hospital workers use white to create a sense of sterility.
The Color Psychology of Red
- Bright, warm color that evokes strong emotions.
- Associated with love, warmth, and comfort.
- Considered an intense, or even angry, color that creates feelings of excitement or intensity.
The Color Psychology of Blue
- Favorite color by many people and is the color most preferred by men.
- Calls to mind feelings of calmness or serenity. It is often described as peaceful, tranquil, secure, and orderly.
- Creates feelings of sadness or aloofness.
- Often used to decorate offices because research has shown that people are more productive in blue rooms.
- One of the most popular colors, but it is one of the least appetizing. Some weight loss plans even recommend eating your food off of a blue plate. Blue rarely occurs naturally in food aside from blueberries and some plums. Also, humans are geared to avoid foods that are poisonous and blue coloring in food is often a sign of spoilage or poison.
- Can also lower the pulse rate and body temperature.
The Color Psychology of Green
- Symbolizes nature and the natural world.
- Represents tranquility, good luck, health, and jealousy.
- Can improve reading ability. Some students may find that laying a transparent sheet of green paper over reading material increases reading speed and comprehension.
- Symbol of fertility and was once the preferred color choice for wedding gowns in the 15th-century. Even today, green M & M’s (an American chocolate candy) are said to send a sexual message.
- Often used in decorating for its calming effect. For example, guests waiting to appear on television programs often wait in a “green room” to relax.
- Thought to relieve stress and help heal. Those who have a green work environment experience fewer stomach aches.
The Color Psychology of Yellow
- Often described as cheery and warm.
- The most fatiguing to the eye due to the high amount of light that is reflected. Using yellow as a background on paper or computer monitors can lead to eyestrain or vision loss in extreme cases.
- Can create feelings of frustration and anger. While it is considered a cheerful color, people are more likely to lose their tempers in yellow rooms and babies tend to cry more in yellow rooms.
- Can increase the metabolism.
- The most attention-getting color. Yellow can be used in small amount to draw notice, such as on traffic sign or advertisements.
The Color Psychology of Purple
- Symbol of royalty and wealth.
- Represents wisdom and spirituality.
- Does not often occur in nature, it can sometimes appear exotic or artificial.
Color Psychology of Brown
- Evokes a sense of strength and reliability.
- Creates feelings of sadness and isolation.
- Brings to mind feeling of warmth, comfort, and security. It is often described as natural, down-to-earth, and conventional, but brown can also be sophisticated.
The Color Psychology of Orange
- A combination of yellow and red and is considered an energetic color.
- Calls to mind feelings of excitement, enthusiasm, and warmth.
- Often used to draw attention, such as in traffic signs and advertising.
The Color Psychology of Pink
- Essentially a light red and is usually associated with love and romance.
- Thought to have a calming effect. One shade known as “drunk-tank pink” is sometimes used in
prisons to calm inmates. Sports teams sometimes paint the opposing team’s locker room pink to keep the players passive and less energetic.
- While calming effect has been demonstrated, researchers of color psychology have found that this effect only occurs during the initial exposure to the color. When used in prisons, inmates often become even more agitated once they become accustomed to the color.