Do Colors Really Affect How We Act and Feel?

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Do Colors Really Affect How We Act and Feel?

Many ancient cultures believed that colors were able to influence not only emotions but also one’s health / Photo by Aasife via 123RF

 

There are many things in modern society today that we associate with colors. For example, green and red are "go" and "stop," respectively, when it comes to traffic. Flaring red signals are usually a warning or symbol of danger. We even use expressions, such as “tickled pink” or “feeling blue.”

Do the correlation of certain concepts and colors have anything to do with our psychology or are these things something that society has developed over context?

 

Lack of Research

Colors are all around us and have become a dominant part of our visual interpretations, especially through art and culture. It should then be natural that color psychology should be a well-researched and organized branch of study. Unfortunately, there has been little research done to unravel and reveal the effects of color on human psychological functioning. Most studies made on the subject were done in pursuit of practical use instead of scientific discovery. The rest of the evidence that makes it way to areas of marketing or design is based on anecdotal findings. However, despite the lack of formal studies on the idea of color psychology, scientists were still able to find some fundamental and important information.

 

Subjective Interpretation

Color interpretation can both be very subjective while also having universal connotations. Feelings evoked by certain colors can vary vastly on what culture you were born into and what you’ve experienced personally. For example, white is often seen as a shade of innocence and purity in most Western countries, but in Eastern countries, it is a color that represents mourning.

Color preferences and the feelings attached to them can be highly subjective and often change over the span of a few days or even hours. Some colors are generally favored and generally disliked, but this may be because of the natural things that are correlated to these colors. According to Smithsonian.com, a highly saturated blue is the most favored color even through different cultures, but this may very well be because everything associated with such a blue is good, such as a clean lake or a clear, cloudless sky. It would make sense, then, that greenish brown would be universally disliked, as it reminds people of feces, rotting plants, or snot.

 

General Views and Color Healing

On the other hand, there are colors that are known to be “warm” in the color spectrum and often evoke feelings of warmth and even anger or hostility. These colors include red, orange, and yellow. Blue, green, and purple are colors that are often described as “cool” or “calm” and bring about feelings of melancholy or even indifference, as stated by Very Well Mind.com.

Many ancient cultures believed that colors were able to influence not only emotions but also one’s health. Chromotherapy, or the use of colors to heal a person, was practiced by the Egyptians and the Chinese millennia ago. Specific colors were thought to target specific problems. Blue was used to alleviate and soothe pain, while red stimulated both body and mind and increased circulation. Indigo was believed to treat skin problems and yellow treated the nerves and purified the body.

Colors are all around us and have become a dominant part of our visual interpretations, especially through art and culture / Photo by Hayati Kayhan via 123RF

 

Recent Studies

Of course, many modern scientists are doubtful that any of the ancient chromotherapy beliefs were founded on fact, and many even believed that society’s perceived importance on colors was highly over-exaggerated. However, scientists were surprised to find that color came into play for a variety of different studies and scenarios. For example, they found that the color red makes people react with more speed and force than their norm, which may be significant for sporting events and the like. They also found that between red and blue placebo pills, red pills were more effective.

Aside from that, one’s performance could also be influenced by color. Seeing the color red made one more susceptible to performing poorly in a test. In fact, in a study that showed students their participant number with a color—either black, green, or red—students with red colors scored about 20% lower than their peers.

 

Color and Commercialism

Many were found to have a favorite or well-liked color based on something else they enjoyed, such as people who loved strawberries favoring red. Researchers also found that preferences were also dependent on things like which team you rooted for in sports or what band of colors your school sported on its banner.

As such, companies and advertisers have used the power of color to their advantage in order to evoke certain reactions. Red, for example, was associated with sweetness, and studies found that some participants found popcorn sweeter just because it was in a red bowl. Food and beverage companies have thus shifted their logos and color schemes accordingly. Even the bosses of offices and interior designers attempt to give their space a certain feel by using different colors. These are, however, decisions based on intuition rather than factual scientific evidence.

Despite a lack of hard evidence, many people are still convinced that a certain color can evoke certain reactions or make things happen. While this is possible, it’ll take more research to find out the truth.

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