Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The Psychology of Color

A simplified but interesting post from Suite 101.

The Psychology of Color

How Reds, Blues, Greens & Oranges Affect Your Mood & Emotions

© Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

Color psychology reveals how different tones and shades affect your appetite, mood, and anxiety levels. The effects of colors can include depression or increased vigor.

Ever notice how sad you feel when you walk into a dark room that doesn’t have windows or bright colors, or how hungry you are when surrounded by red walls or red dishes? That’s the psychology of color. Certain shades, tones & colors affect our moods and emotions. Some colors suppress our appetite (which makes them good for people who are counting calories), while other colors increase our breathing and heart rate.

The Psychological Effects of Red, Blue, Green & Orange

Below are the general psychological effects of certain colors. However, if they're associated with certain personal experiences or memories, they may have different effects than listed below. Say, for instance, you received a “Dear John” or other type of disappointing or heartbreaking letter in a green envelope. From then on green may be your least favorite color because you associate it with heartbreak and sorrow. That’s a subjective perspective of color; the following are objective perspectives of color.

These psychological effects of colors may not apply equally to every individual, but they have been found to be standard in North American culture by various researchers.

The Psychological Effect of Red Colors

Red is associated with blood, heat, and vigor. Red is passionate, intense, and fierce. It’s also associated with love (Valentine’s Day), Christmas, and the element of danger.

Red hues are warm, active, and exciting. Red lights cause an increase in breathing, heart rate, and central nervous system functioning. Though red may stimulate most people, it can calm others, depending on their associations with that particular color. Red has been known to increase appetite in restaurants.

The Psychological Effect of Blue Colors

Blue is associated with spirituality, thought, and melancholy. It’s also connected to calmness, cleanliness, and wisdom. When you feel blue or “have the blues”, you’re usually a little sad for the moment – but the blues are fleeting. This color is thought to be an appetite suppressant, because blue isn’t a natural color for fruit, vegetables, or meat (even blueberries are more purple than blue).

Blue colors have the opposite effect of red colors. That is, blue causes a decrease in breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure. It’s a subduing, cool color that can appear peaceful, but may also seem sad.

The Psychological Effect of Green Colors

Green is associated with nature, health, and abundance. It’s also connected to money, wealth and good luck. Green is a tranquilizing color, and is connected to the interaction between human and environmental health.

Green is an interesting color because it swings both ways (actually, most colors are contradictory). For example, green is usually associated with freshness, coolness, clarity and growth. However, if you shine a green light on human flesh, it looks repulsive. Shine a green light on criminals and you’ll elicit a confession much quicker than other colors.

The Psychological Effect of Orange Colors

Orange is associated with warmth, enthusiasm, and exuberance. It’s a lively color, associated with Halloween and Thanksgiving. Orange isn’t as intense as red because it’s blended with the cheeriness of yellow.

Orange has been touted as one of America’s least favorite colors, perhaps because it’s been associated with arrogance, danger, and overemotion. Orange is used to draw attention – such as the caution signal on a traffic light.

Color Psychology in Other Cultures & Eras

Colors in other cultures have very different meanings. For instance, black isn’t a sign of mourning in all cultures, and blue doesn’t indicate sadness in every country. Orange is a sign of royalty in the Netherlands, and green was a sign of the devil during the Middle Ages.

Interesting fact about color and gender: Women are more likely than men to have a favorite color.

If you found The Psychology of Color interesting, you might try:

Source: Color Psychology and Color Therapy by Faber Birren.

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