Color Psychology: Does It Affect How You Feel? (2023)

Do you feel anxious in a yellow room? Does the color blue make you feel calm and relaxed? Artists and interior designers have long believed that color can dramatically affect moods, feelings, and emotions. "Colors, like features, follow the changes of the emotions," the artist Pablo Picasso once remarked.

Color is a powerful communication tool and can be used to signal action, influence mood, and even influencephysiological reactions. Certain colors have been associated with increased blood pressure, increased metabolism, and eyestrain. So how exactly does color work? How is colorbelieved to impact mood and behavior?

What Is Color Psychology?

In 1666, English scientist Sir Isaac Newton discovered that when pure white light passes through a prism, it separates into all of the visible colors. Newton also found that each color is made up of a single wavelength and cannot be separated any further into other colors.

Further experiments demonstrated that light could be combined to form other colors. For example, red light mixed with yellow light creates anorange color. Some colors, such as greenand magenta, cancel each other out when mixed and result in a white light.

If you have ever painted, then you have probably noticed how certain colors can be mixed to create other colors.

"Given the prevalence of color, one would expect color psychology to be a well-developed area,"researchers Andrew Elliot and Markus Maier have noted. "Surprisingly, little theoretical or empirical work has been conducted to date on color's influence on psychological functioning, and the work that has been done has been driven mostly by practical concerns, not scientific rigor."

Despite the general lack of research in this area, the concept of color psychology has become a hot topic in marketing, art, design, and other areas. Much of the evidence in this emerging area is anecdotal at best, but researchers and experts have made a few important discoveries and observations about the psychology of color and the effect it has on moods, feelings, and behaviors.

Your feelings about color are often deeply personal and rooted in your own experience or culture.

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For example, while the color white is used in many Western countries to represent purity and innocence, it is seen as a symbol of mourning in many Eastern countries.

The Psychological Effects of Color

Why is color such a powerful force in our lives? What effects can it have on our bodies and minds? While perceptions of color are somewhat subjective, there are some color effects that have universal meaning.

Colors in the red area of the color spectrum are known as warm colors and include red, orange, and yellow. These warm colors evoke emotions ranging from feelings of warmth and comfort to feelings of anger and hostility.

Colors on the blue side of the spectrum are known as cool colors and include blue, purple, and green. These colors are often described as calm, but can also call to mind feelings of sadness or indifference.

How do people respond to different colors? Selecta color below to learn more about the possible effects and find reactions from other readers:

  • Black
  • White
  • Red
  • Blue
  • Green
  • Yellow
  • Purple
  • Brown
  • Orange
  • Pink

Color Psychology as Therapy

Several ancient cultures, including the Egyptians and Chinese, practiced chromotherapy, or the use of colors to heal. Chromotherapy is sometimes referred to as light therapy or colorology.

Colorology is still used today as a holistic or alternative treatment. In this treatment:

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  • Red is used to stimulate the body and mind and to increase circulation.
  • Yellow is thought to stimulate the nerves and purify the body.
  • Orange is used to heal the lungs and to increase energy levels.
  • Blue is believed to soothe illnesses and treat pain.
  • Indigo shades are thought to alleviate skin problems.

Color Therapy: Definition, Types, Techniques, Efficacy

Modern Research on Color Psychology

Most psychologists view color therapy with skepticism and point out that the supposed effects of color are often grossly exaggerated. Colors also have different meanings in different cultures.

Research has demonstrated in many cases that the mood-altering effects of color may only be temporary. A blue room may initially cause feelings of calm, but the effect dissipates after a short period of time.

However, existing research has found that color can impact people in a variety of surprising ways:

  • Warm-colored placebo pills were reported as more effective than cool-colored placebo pills in one study.
  • Blue-colored streetlights can lead to reduced crime according to anecdotal evidence.
  • Red causes people to react with greater speed and force, something that might prove useful during athletic activities according to researchers.
  • Black uniforms are more likely to receive penalties. Additionally, students were more likely to associate negative qualities with a player wearing a black uniform according to a study that looked at historical data of sports teams and what they were dressed.

Color Can Influence Performance

Studies have also shown that certain colors can have an impact on performance. No one likes to see a graded test covered in red ink, but one study found that seeing the color red before taking an exam actually hurt test performance.

While the color red is often described as threatening, arousing or exciting, many previous studies on the impact of the color red have been largely inconclusive. The study found, however, that exposing students to the color red prior to an exam has been shown to have a negative impact on test performance.

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In the first of the six experiments described in the study, 71 U.S. colleges students were presented with a participant number colored either red, green or black prior to taking a five-minute test.

The results revealed that students who were presented with the red number before taking the test scored more than 20% lower than those presented with the green and black numbers.

Color and Consumer Purchases

Color psychology suggests that various shades can have a wide range of effects, from boosting our moods to causing anxiety.But could the color of the products you purchase ever say something about your personality? For example, could the color of the car you buy somehow relate to some underlying personality traits or quirks?

Your color preferences why buying items might say something about the type of image you may be trying to project. Color preferences, from the clothes you wear to the car you drive, can sometimes make a statement about how we want other people to perceive us. Other factors such as age and gender can also influence the color choices we make.

  • White: As many of our readers have suggested, the color white can feel fresh and clean. The color is often used to evoke a sense of youth and modernity.
  • Black: Our readers often describe black as a "powerful" color, which might be the reason why black is the most popular color for luxury vehicles. People often describe the color as sexy, powerful, mysterious, and even ominous.
  • Silver: It's the third most popular color for vehicles and linked to a sense of innovation and modernity. High tech products are often silver, so the color is often linked to things that are new, modern, and cutting-edge.
  • Red: Dreaming of a red vehicle? Red is a bold, attention-getting color, so preferring this type of car might mean you want to project an image of power, action, and confidence.
  • Blue: People often describe blue as the color of stability and safety. Driving a blue car or SUV might indicate that you are dependable and trustworthy.
  • Yellow: According to the experts, driving a yellow vehicle might mean that you are a happy person in general and perhaps a bit more willing than the average person to take risks.
  • Gray: The experts suggest that people who drive gray cars don't want to stand out and instead prefer something a bit more subtle.

Of course, the color selections we make are often influenced by factors including price, selection, and other practical concerns. Not only that, but color preferences can also change in time.

A person might prefer brighter, more attention-getting colors when they are younger, but find themselves drawn to more traditional colors as they grow older. The personality of the buyer can play an important role in color selection, but buyers are often heavily influenced by factors such as price as well as availability.

For example, purchasing a white vehicle might be less about wanting people to think that you are young and modern and more about the climate you live in; people who live in hot climates typically prefer light-colored vehicles over dark ones.

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Additional Research Is Still Needed

Interest in the subject of color psychology is growing, but there remain a number of unanswered questions. How do color associations develop? How powerful is the influence of these associations on real-world behavior?

Can color be used to increase worker productivity or workplace safety? What colors have an impact on consumer behavior? Do certain personality types prefer certain colors? As researchers continue to explore such questions, we may soon learn more about the impact that color has on human psychology.

Zena O'Connor, a faculty member in the Department of Architecture, Design, and Planning at the University of Sydney, suggests that people should be wary of many of the claims they see about the psychology of color.

"Many of these claims lack substantiation in terms of empirical support, exhibit fundamental flaws (such as causal oversimplification and subjective validation), and may include factoids presented as facts," O'Connor explains. "In addition, such claims often refer to outdated research without referring to current research findings."

A Word From Verywell

Color can play an important role in conveying information, creating certain moods, and even influencing the decisions people make. Color preferences also exert an influence on the objects people choose to purchase, the clothes they wear, and the way they adorn their environments.

People often select objects in colors that evoke certain moods or feelings, such as selecting a car color that seems sporty, futuristic, sleek, or trustworthy. Room colors can also be used to evoke specific moods, such as painting a bedroom a soft green to create a peaceful mood.

So what's the bottom line? Experts have found that while color can have an influence on how we feel and act, these effects are subject to personal, cultural, and situational factors. More scientific research is needed to gain a better understanding of color psychology.

FAQs

How does color affect how we feel? ›

The color green seems to make positive emotions stronger and negative emotions weaker. White and pink may have similar effects, but researchers are still studying those. Meanwhile, the color red seems to have the opposite effect and make negative emotions -- like those linked to failure and danger -- more intense.

Does Colour affect human psychology? ›

Color can play an important role in conveying information nonverbally, creating certain moods, and even influencing the decisions people make. Given that 90% of snap judgments are influenced by the psychological effects of color alone, it's important to know what colors mean and what responses they can elicit.

Do you think colors affect on life? ›

Color is a powerful communication tool and can be used to signal action, influence mood, and even influence physiological reactions. Certain colors have been associated with increased blood pressure, increased metabolism, and eyestrain. So how exactly does color work?

Why do Colours affect emotions? ›

Colours can't necessarily dictate your behaviour, but they sure can influence your decisions on your judgement and affect your mood, because colours activate the hypothalamus, and each colour focusses on either the sympathetic or parasympathetic nervous systems that evoke specific physiological responses, that cause a ...

What is color psychology give an example? ›

Different colors are perceived to mean different things. For example, tones of red lead to feelings of arousal while blue tones are often associated with feelings of relaxation. Both of these emotions are pleasant, so therefore, the colors themselves can procure positive feelings in advertisements.

Why do colors affect the brain? ›

In studies, colors have been shown to change alpha brain waves. According to EEG and pulse measuring systems, men and women react differently to colors. When color is transmitted from the eye to the brain, the brain releases a hormone affecting the emotions, mind clarity and energy levels.

What colors make people happy? ›

'Generally, the warm tones of yellow, and orange, warm lavenders and blues, such as periwinkle and warm red or warm pink are associated with happiness. '

How Does color Affect Memory? ›

Colour helps us in memorizing certain information by increasing our attentional level. The role played by colour in enhancing our attention level is undisputable (14,23). The more attention focused on certain stimuli, the more chances of the stimuli to be transferred to a more permanent memory storage (18).

How does color define personality? ›

According to proponents of color psychology, your favorite color (or colors) define your personality color. Yes, it's that simple! According to them, the colors you choose say a lot about your physical, mental, and emotional states. Similarly, the colors you dislike say a lot about your weaknesses and vulnerabilities.

Which color makes people feel anxious? ›

For instance, red shades tend to trigger your stress response, making you more anxious, while lighter shades calm you down. If you are feeling overly stressed, you can use color as a stress management tool.

What Colour is sadness? ›

Grey is the quintessential sad color, but dark and muted cool colors like blue, green or neutrals like brown or beige can have a similar effect on feelings and emotions depending on how they're used. In Western cultures black is often considered the color of mourning, whereas in some East Asian countries it's white.

What Colour is jealousy? ›

“Green” “Green” was indicated among the top three colors for two emotions, envy and jealousy (Figure 2).

How do we see color psychology? ›

Light receptors within the eye transmit messages to the brain, which produces the familiar sensations of color. Newton observed that color is not inherent in objects. Rather, the surface of an object reflects some colors and absorbs all the others. We perceive only the reflected colors.

What color does your brain remember most? ›

Memory for the color of objects was higher for red than for blue and green-colored objects, and again, although memory for red colors was descriptively higher than for yellow colors, no statistically significant difference was observed between red and yellow colors.

What color represents the mind? ›

Blue is the colour of the mind and is essentially soothing; it affects us mentally, rather than the physical reaction we have to red. Strong blues will stimulate clear thought and lighter, soft blues will calm the mind and aid concentration.

What is the most relaxing color? ›

Blue is the Most Relaxing Colour, Scientists Say
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  • A new study of Leonardo da Vinci's earliest-known drawing has revealed that the Renaissance master was ambidextrous.
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What color makes hungry? ›

Yellow and orange are colors that make people feel hungry. The color red is associated with emotion and passion. So when one sees red combined with yellow and orange, they become passionately hungry.

What color is used for depression? ›

When it comes to depression colors, gray and blue tend to be high on the list of those associated with low mood. In a 2010 study using the Manchester Color Wheel, experts found gray was the color people pointed to when asked to reflect feelings of depression.

What color makes people tired? ›

Red or amber light – this light is the most likely to impact our circadian rhythm and makes us sleepy. Red or amber light helps us feel calmer in the evening and promotes the secretion of melatonin.

What color makes you feel sleepy? ›

Blue. Blue is perhaps the best color for your bedroom. Not only is it more muted, but blue tones also tend to have more calming effects on the brain, as shown in a 2018 study of blue walls in a university residence hall.

What colour is anger? ›

Undoubtedly, the strongest link between an individual emotion and color is “red” and anger, which has been noted across studies and formats (e.g., Kaya and Epps, 2004; Sutton and Altarriba, 2016).

What color stimulates brain activity? ›

The color purple stimulates the brain activity used in problem solving, while also being a feminine and romantic color. Purple is often used in women's cosmetic packaging.

What colors are good for memory? ›

Which Colors Boost Memory? According to a study at the University of British Columbia, certain colors can help with concentration and attention span, facilitating memory retention and learning. The study concluded that red and blue colors are the best for enhancing cognitive skills and improving brain function.

What color is good for studying? ›

Blue is best used for learning situations which are challenging. Blue paper, blue ink, or blue highlighting can be used to help improve reading comprehension too. Blue in general it seems is a relaxing and calming color, but lighter shades will seem more 'friendly' while darker ones seem a little more somber.

Do Colours have meanings? ›

Color means many different things to different people and cultures. We all have our own favorite colors. People like different colors like they like different foods. Color also represents feelings, people, countries, cultures, and color symbolism.

What is a white color personality? ›

What make a white? The white core personality: are peaceful people, logical thinkers and none-controlling. "Everything comes to he who waits." White Positives: are diplomatic, easily agreeable and accommodating with a even tempered personality.

Can your favorite color tell your personality? ›

Nothing. It's like astrology. Colors can influence your emotions and behaviors, but "color psychology" yields no real insight into your personality.

What colors make a person happy? ›

'Generally, the warm tones of yellow, and orange, warm lavenders and blues, such as periwinkle and warm red or warm pink are associated with happiness. '

What is the most negative color? ›

The results revealed that the color RED was most commonly associated with negative emotion and emotion-laden words, whereas YELLOW and WHITE were associated with positive emotion and emotion-laden words, respectively.

How does the color of your clothes affect your mood? ›

Green and blue hues (often referred to as “cool” colors) can help to achieve a sense of calm. Likewise, reds, oranges, and yellows (or “warm” colors) can boost your mood. Each of these colors takes on a different meaning when separated into different shades.

What is the most relaxing color? ›

Blue is the Most Relaxing Colour, Scientists Say
  • New research claims that dark blue is the world's most relaxing colour. ...
  • A new study of Leonardo da Vinci's earliest-known drawing has revealed that the Renaissance master was ambidextrous.
12 Apr 2019

What color makes anxiety? ›

High A-Trait students were significantly more anxious while viewing blue, red, and green than were the low A-Trait students and blue produced significantly more state anxiety than did either yellow or green.

What color creates anxiety? ›

For instance, red shades tend to trigger your stress response, making you more anxious, while lighter shades calm you down. If you are feeling overly stressed, you can use color as a stress management tool.

What color makes people tired? ›

Red or amber light – this light is the most likely to impact our circadian rhythm and makes us sleepy. Red or amber light helps us feel calmer in the evening and promotes the secretion of melatonin.

What color is jealousy? ›

“Green” “Green” was indicated among the top three colors for two emotions, envy and jealousy (Figure 2).

What color makes people angry? ›

Red is the warmest and most dynamic of the colors—it triggers opposing emotions. It is often associated with passion and love as well as anger and danger. It can increase a person's heart rate and make them excited. If you want to draw attention to a design element, use red.

What color is afraid? ›

Each one is colored uniquely (e.g., anger is “red”, fear is “purple”, and disgust is “green”).

How does white make you feel? ›

Some of the positive meanings that white can convey include cleanliness, freshness, and simplicity. The color white often seems like a blank slate, symbolizing a new beginning or a fresh start. On the negative side, white can seem stark, cold, and isolated.

What is the most approachable color? ›

Generally, blue was the most approachable color. It makes you appear trustworthy and reliable.

Does wearing black affect your mood? ›

According to Vogue, wearing colors can affect your mood — they even spoke with a color therapy expert, Constance Hart, who told them that "black can feel like a security blanket," and that she tries to encourage people to incorporate more color into their lives because black can have a "depressive quality." The Daily ...

What color reduces stress? ›

Green – Quiet and restful, green is a soothing color that can invite harmony and diffuse anxiety. Blue – A highly peaceful color, blue can be especially helpful for stress management because it can encourage a powerful sense of calm. Purple – In many cultures, shades of violet represent strength, wisdom and peace.

What color helps sleep? ›

Blue. Blue is perhaps the best color for your bedroom. Not only is it more muted, but blue tones also tend to have more calming effects on the brain, as shown in a 2018 study of blue walls in a university residence hall.

What color is used for depression? ›

When it comes to depression colors, gray and blue tend to be high on the list of those associated with low mood. In a 2010 study using the Manchester Color Wheel, experts found gray was the color people pointed to when asked to reflect feelings of depression.

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