How Colour Affects One’s Feelings, Behaviours and Mood
“Colours, like features, follow the changes of the emotions”
The art world has long believed that colour can affect emotions, moods and feelings rather dramatically, and if one looks at any advertisement, one can see that advertising execs do as well…
One can take this further – the medical and psychological fraternities also believe in the power and effect of colour on mood, behaviour, and even that colour can influence physiological reactions.
In 1666, Sir Isaac Newton discovered that when pure white light passes through a prism, it separates into all of the visible colours. Newton also found that each colour is made up of a single wavelength and cannot be separated any further into other colours. Experiments done at a later stage showed that light could be combined to form other colours, e.g. red light mixed with yellow light creates orange light. Some colours, such as green and magenta, cancel each other out when mixed, resulting in a white light.
Psychological Effects of Colour
In general, feelings about colour can be deeply personal and rooted in one’s own experience or culture, such as white being seen in many Western countries to represent purity and innocence, yet being seen as a symbol of mourning in many Eastern countries.
Despite this, some colours have universal meaning:
Colours in the red spectrum such as red, orange, and yellow are seen as “warm” colours and are known to evoke a range of emotions and feelings such as warmth, comfort, hostility and anger.
Researchers have also discovered that the colour red causes people to react with greater speed and force. Another study found that exposing students to the colour red prior to an exam has been shown to have a negative impact on test performance.
On the opposite side of the spectrum are the colours in the blue range which are seen as “cool” colours. These include blue, purple, and green and are seen as calm colours but also colours which can evoke feelings of sadness or indifference.
The belief in the calming effects of green can be seen by how often the colour is utilised in hospitals, clinics etc.
A blue room may initially cause feelings of calm, but the effect dissipates after a short period of time.
Colour Psychology as Therapy
Various ancient cultures, including the Egyptians and Chinese, practiced a form of colour therapy known as Chromotherapy, which is sometimes also referred to as light therapy and is still used today as an holistic or alternative treatment:
- Blue to soothe illnesses and treat pain.
- Indigo shades to alleviate skin problems.
- Orange to heal the lungs and to increase energy levels.
- Red to stimulate the body and mind and to increase circulation.
- Yellow to stimulate the nerves and purify the body.
Colour in Advertising
Advertisers or Marketers are acutely aware of colour psychology and use it abundantly.
What do your colour preferences when purchasing items say about you and/or the type of image you may be trying to project?
Various factors influence our choice of colours for the car we drive to the clothes we wear, such as how we want others to perceive us, our age and gender, and even our cultural influences:
- Black is often described as a “powerful” colour, which might be the reason why black is the most popular colour for luxury vehicles. Black is also described as a sexy, powerful, mysterious, and even an ominous colour.
- Blue is referred to as being the colour of stability and safety. Driving a blue car might indicate dependability and trustworthiness.
- Grey is seen as a subtle colour that is preferred by individuals who don’t want to stand out.
- Red is a bold, attention-getting colour, so individuals who drive this type of car might be seen as wanting to project an image of power, action, and confidence (the same goes for men who wear red ties or women who wear red).
- Silver is linked to a sense of innovation and modernity. High tech products are often silver, so the colour is often linked to things that are new, modern, and cutting-edge.
- White can feel fresh and clean and is often used to evoke a sense of youth and modernity.
- Yellow is generally seen as a very happy colour, and can also be seen to denote an individual who is perhaps a bit more willing than the average person to take risks.
The colour selections we make are also open to other influences such as the price of the article we want to purchase as well as other more practical concerns such as what the item is going to be used for, e.g. purchasing a pale yellow overall to work on a car engine would be rather impractical.
Geography could also influence colour choice – individuals living in hot climates typically prefer light colours for both clothing and vehicles over dark ones.
Age also influences our choice of colour – while we may favour bright colours when younger, many individuals prefer more traditional colours as they get older.