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How does colour affect us?

Topic 5: How do colours affect emotions

Brittany Veerasammy

on 12 February 2014

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Transcript of How does colour affect us?

How does colour affect us?
Colour & Emotion
can evoke and promote a variety of emotions:
, but is also associated with
, but also evokes
is said to
, and has
is often associated with
, but is also a colour of

But where is the evidence?

Associations we give to colours
It is a bold colour that represents fire. This can be translated into rage, courage and strength, and passion. It is known to escalate the body's metabolism and increase blood pressure, thus incite excitement and feelings of intensity.
Red is also the colour of blood. When we 'see red', the natural flush of the cheeks is a common physical symptom of rage. This does not always have to mean anger or aggression. Love can produce the same blushing effect.
It represents the sun and light, hence it leaves a warm and satisfying impression, lively and stimulating. It may signify wisdom, joy and optimism. Yellow is also the colour of enthusiasm.
It may also have some negative meanings, as it is associated with illness and ageing. For example, decaying teeth and jaundiced skin. To say someone is 'yellow bellied' is to say that he or she is a coward.
It is the colour of trees and grass. It represents nature, hence it symbolises fertility, rebirth and freedom. It tends to have a soothing effect on people by working mentally as well as physically to relax our minds and bodies to alleviate tension.
However, as with most colors, green also brings forth some negative connotations. The phrase "green with envy" means to be jealous or envious. Also, to say someone has 'turned green' means to appear nauseous.
It represents the sky as well as bodies of water like the ocean. It symbolises peacefulness, calmness and serenity. It may be translated into loyalty and faithfulness, hence the saying 'a true blue' friend.
Blue is often associated with sombre emotions such as melancholia and gloom, and also with the cold. The saying to 'feel blue' is to feel sad.
It is the colour of darkness and mourning. We often associate it with death, decay and even witchcraft. 'Black sheep' refers to an outcast. 'Black humour' refers to morbid humour. 'Black' preceding any day of the week usually symbolises a tragic event.
People feel inconspicuous when wearing black, and may evoke a sense of potential and possibility. It is a preferred color in many designs since it contrasts with most colors quite well. If used correctly, it promotes distinction and clarity in your images.
It is the symbol of purity, innocence and birth. In early art, angels were always depicted wearing white. It also exemplifies cleanliness. This is probably why hospitals and hospital workers use white, to create a sense of sterility.
White may affect people physically by encouraging clearance of clutter, and aiding mental clarity.
White typifies pure thoughts and actions, and we often associate new beginnings with the colour.
Its simplicity and subtle quality makes it an ideal color for establishing clarity and contrast in your images.
Felix Deutsch et al, 1920.
• A patient of Deutsh was troubled with heart palpitations, anginal fear and shortness of breath.
• She was fearful of the recurrence of spasms that had caused her to lose consciousness in the past
• On examination of her heart, no abnormalities were found.
• The patient chose a
environment as the one that was most pleasing to her from the rooms set up with artificial light.
• Her pulse was taken before and after exposure to the
red hued
• First Session – pulse before 112; pulse after 80
Second Session – pulse before 92; pulse after 76
Third Session – pulse before 92; pulse after 80
Fourth session – pulse before 84; pulse after 74
• The patient described feeling a comforting sensation of warmth and the restoration of the feeling of calmness within herself.
• After her sessions she expressed a marked decrease in the symptoms she described at the start of her treatment.

How do we use
colour in our clothing?

It is thought that each individual has his or her own colour palette when it comes to the way we dress. The colours that we choose to wear often speak strongly about our personality, as we the colours we choose to wear are not simply our favourite colours to look at, there is often a reflection of our mood but also a reflection of the season and occasion.
Echoes feelings of
and is an obvious attempt to make a
as red has maximum visual impact. Red is also often chosen to play down femininity when worn by both genders.
Lighter tones indicate a
mood and a desire for calmness while darker tones echo feelings of
and strength.
Shows feelings of
and peace especially the more natural tones such as olive and moss.
Yellow is a colour that although most people like it in the environment they are weary of wearing, yellow focuses on ego and can show feelings of
high self esteem
Pink is soothing and represents the feminine principle of
, it is also worn for
sex appeal
as it has an association with skin.
Purple reflects the higher mind and the spirit, it often shows
deep thought
Black is a heavy colour but it is considered safe, so can represent feelings of insecurity but can also convey strength and determination.
White represents
, it can echo a desire for
and a love of cleanliness.
Conveys feelings of
, it is often seen in professional uniforms
Colour Therapy
Colour is a form of visible light: electromagnetic energy
Each individual colour correlates to a different wavelength of light
Each wavelength therefore has a different effect on our eyes and our senses
Some people believe that each of the seven colours (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet) corresponds to a different chakra, or energy store, in the body
Thus colour used to return energy losses in the body or balance out the body’s inner vibrations

Basis of Colour Therapy
Uses of Colour Therapy
Light has been found to be able to affect the human circadian system (the wake/sleep cycle) as well as melanin and cortisol production
Specific wavelength effects:
Blue may increase cognitive abilities
Specific coloured lenses have been found to help certain reading difficulties
Irlen lenses
Used for people who are particularly sensitive to a certain light wavelength
This sensitivity causes problems with activities such as reading and is commonly found in people with dyslexia or ADHD
Circadian system particularly sensitive to short wavelengths of light i.e. violet
Neonatal jaundice
Blue light shone on newborn infants with jaundice has proven effective
If jaundice is caused by high levels of bilirubin in the blood, blue light can be used to reduce these levels
The blue light breaks down the bilirubin to biliverdin, which does not contribute to jaundice

Uses of Colour Therapy
Placebo pills
Research has shown that hot-coloured pills (e.g. red) work better as stimulants
Cooler-coloured pills work better as depressants
This is most likely due to the patient’s expectations of the colour and not due to the colour itself
Colours used to affect emotions
Red – active and stimulating
Green – subduing and relaxing
The effect is dependent on preference of colour
“Bubblegum pink”
Some prison cells have been painted this shade of pink
The prisoners have reduced aggression and “go to sleep much more quickly in a pink room."
Children under detention at the San Bernardino County Probation Department in California are put in a cell which is painted pink if they become violent.
“The children tend to relax, stop yelling and banging and often fall asleep within 10 minutes” - Paul E. Boccumini, the department director of clinical services

Disputes about Colour Therapy
There is evidence to suggest that the extent of arousal a colour causes is due to its saturation rather than the actual hue
Although colour therapy has been previously used to treat diseases such as asthma, arthritis, cancers etc., there is no scientific study shown to support its application in these illnesses.
There is no substantial evidence for the presence of “chakra” centres in the body.
Effects of colour on moods are heavily dependent on culture and upbringing.
Colour responses are very dependent on the individual
For example, green for one person may be calming and a sign of health but for another may be perceivable as guilt or disease.

How an individual responds to colours will be affected by many factors
For example: age, gender, colour associations, culture and colour preference.
While it may be true that a person has certain associations with a colour as well as responses, it is presumptuous to think that these colours could be effectively used as a form of therapy or in related treatments
Although colour therapy is not an applicable form of treatment for body illnesses such as cancer, with more research it may be useful in psychological therapy for violence, depression etc., as seen in violent prison inmates and children
Furthermore it has been shown to be effective in reading difficulties and neonatal jaundice
Colour therapy is critical in patient care in hospitals/nursing homes
There are correlations between the colours of the rooms and the patients’ moods
This is extremely important in long term care in homes or hospitals

In conclusion, colour therapy may be useful in minor mood changes but is usually only a form of alternative medicine and not a diagnostic curing treatment.

Wexner, 1954- Colour association with mood
29 words describing
moods were used in this study, e.g. distressed, cheerful, serene
94 psychology students- male and female- matched each word to the colour they associated it with
Positive words, such as
Negative words, such as
Hemphill, 1996- Colour-emotion association
20 male and 20 female students completed a questionnaire
The students associated
bright colours
positive emotions
dark colours
negative emotions
Women responded more positively to bright colours than men, and more negatively to dark colours
Yong et al, 2012- Facial expression & colour
7 faces were shown to the 27 subjects, each face showing a different emotion- happy, angry, surprised, neutral, sad, fearful and disgusted
The subjects each chose the colour they associated with the facial expressions
= purple;
=orange; fear=black;
=black/blue (most frequently selected colours)
Cultural Significance of Colours
The meanings & representations of colours could be culturally ingrained. Different colours may have different symbolic importance in different culture.
Wedding Dresses
Red, which symbolises joy & good fortune is the traditional colour for wedding dresses in many asian countries. Brides in India wear red saris offered by their father, signifying a father's duties passing onto new husbands & also his wish for the bride to have children. Brides also have their feet and hands painted with red henna in Pakistan & India by their new spouse family, symbolising happiness & new status.

Whereas in Western culture, white is the traditional colour for wedding dresses, signifying purity & innocence. White has been the traditional colour worn for royal weddings by brides, & it is not till the 19th century that white wedding gowns appeared in ordinary people wedding. Queen Victoria's white lace wedding gown in 1840 had significant impact on the fashion & colour of wedding dresses in Europe & western world till present day.

In Korea, China & many Asian countries, the whitish color of undyed linen, is the colour of funerals & mournings. A white kimono is often placed with the deceased in the casket in Japan for the journey to the other world. Condolence gifts, or kooden, are wrapped in white paper, to protect its contents from impurities of the other world.

In American and Europe, the colour black is most commonly associated with bereavement & mourning, as traditionally worn at memorial services & funerals. In some traditional societies in Italy & Greece, some widows may wear black indefinitely.
Colours in Religion
A range of colours from orange yellow to deep orange red collectively called saffron are closely linked to Buddhism & Hinduism. These colours are also often worn by monks across Asia & wandering holy men Sadhu in India. In Buddhism, the robe & colour is a symbol of renunciation to the outside world & a sign of commitment to order.

Orange, in contrast, represents the sins of gluttony in Christianity.

Yellow was regarded as the colour of imperial China & was the symbolic colour of the 5 legendary emperors of ancient China, with the first called 'Huang Di' literally meaning The Yellow Emperor. The attires of emperors were often yellow along with the decoration of royal palaces, temples & altars.

Purple is a common colour for royalties in Europe, signifying luxury, wealth & sophistication. Roman emperors, both Augustus & Julius Caesar decreed only emperors could wear purple. Orange is the national colour of the Netherlands, with the royal family deriving its name in part from its former holding the Principality of Orange,

Colour in advertisement
Colour influences people's unconscious responses. There is an enormous weight on making a decision for purchases. Every year major companies spend multi millions on design and marketing. By the 1990s every manufacturing company had a team of product designers. Corporations focus on the product they are selling and present its most attractive attribute through colour.
How does it affect the consumer?
First thing that attracts them
Immediate emotional reaction
Brand trust worthy
Obviously it is difficult to choose one colour or a colour palate that suits the needs of the great diversity of clients and cultures it appeals to
Major companies are lucky in the sense that their colours have become iconic
But... how did they build consumer confidence?
Royal purple- top quality and uncompromised standards
Yellow- fun and enjoyable
Hot Pink

make bold statements
Light Pink-
Connotations of flowers or confections (Light, sweet and gentle)
Sometimes these colours symbolize social issues
Orange and yellow
orange gives a friendly vibe
Orange is the
most high visibility
Yellow gives the feeling of
vitality, energy, and heat
Infants are most attracted to this colour
Easiest colour seen by the
human eye
Gives a feeling of earthiness with an indulgent edge
Very wholesome and natural
Integrity and loyalty
Linked to serenity of a clear blue sky
Deep blues

give the feeling of introspect and respite
It is a
calming colour
Making the planet a healthier place
Yellow green- benevolence
Teal- elegance and confidence
Uniqueness factor
Can define many moods:
Energizing and exciting-->mysterious
Royal perception is not as common
Black, white and neutral
Essential colours
Relates to our natural resources
Black- sophistication
Neutral- longevity
White- clean and pure
Thank you!
Azeemi K., 2007, Colour Therapy, Karachi, Al-Kitab Publications
Biggs E, 1956, Colour in Advertising
Birren F, 1992, Colour Psychology and Colour Therapy
Bleich S., 2007, Blue light improves cognitive performance
Epps H., Kaya N., 2004, Relationship between color and emotion: a study of college students
Hemphill, M. 1996. A note on adults' color-emotion associations,
The Journal of Genetic Psychology
: 275-280
Hettiarachchi A., De Silva N., 2012, Colour associated emotional and behavioural responses: A study on the associations emerged via
Lehrl S., Gerstmeyer K., Jacob J., Frieling H., Henkel W., Meyrer R., Wiltfang J., Kornhuber J., Peterson M., 2000, The Psychology of
BT Journal
, Volume 5, Issue 1.
O’Connor Z., 2009, Colour Psychology and Colour Therapy:Caveat Emptor, Volume 36, Number 3
Robinson W., 2004, Colors, Arousal, Functionalism, and Individual Differences
Tan J., 2011, Colour Hunting
Warman V., Dijk D., Warman G., Arendt J. Skene D., 2003, Elsevier, Phase advancing human circadian rhythms with short wavelength
Wexner, L. 1954. The degree to which colors (hues) are associated with mood-tones,
Journal of Applied Psychology
: 432-435
Wright, A. 1995. The beginner's guide to colour psychology. Kyle Cathie Limited.
Yong, C.Y., Sudirman, R. & Chew, K, M. 2012. Colour perception on facial expression towards emotion,
: 723-733

Identify your true colour - A Quiz
3. Irrespective of price or status, what kind of jewellery appeals to you?
a) Light gold filigree, yellow sapphires, emeralds, opals
b) Platinum or white gold, moonstones, tourmalines, a star sapphire,
classic pearls
c) Chunky gold, copper or brass, ethnic style, topaz, amber, garnets,
a fire opal
d) Silver, unusual setting, diamonds, rubies, black pearls, jet

4. What is your favourite kind of social event?
a) A picnic, a musical or the circus; spontaneous parties
b) Concerts, or the ballet; an elegant dinner party
c) The opera, the cinema or a meaty coutroom drama; evenings by
the fire with close friends
d) A fashionable cocktail party, first nights, art house cinema, a book
1. Excluding black & white, what is your favourite colour?
a) Yellow
b) Blue
c) Green
d) Red

2. In choosing a home, would you say your most important consideration (after location, price and other practical matters) was:
a) Light
b) Proportion
c) Substance
d) Space
5. What kind of music do you like?
a) Pop, rock'n'roll, operetta or light classical
b) Tschaikowski, Mozart, Bach, Schubert
c) Opera, heavy rock, folk, Beethoven
d) Jazz, contemporary classical, heavy metal, Gorecki

6. In art, regardless of your education, would you instinctively gravitate
most towards:
a) Watercolours
b) Impressionism
c) Oil paintings
d) Etchings or line drawing
7. When you consider the concept of leadership, would you, as a leader:
a) Motivate others with your enthusiasm
b) Really prefer to be the 'power behind the throne'
c) Lead from the front, never asking others to do anything which you are not prepared to do yourself
d) Take an overview, and concentrate on the most effective delegation
If you answer mostly
, you are linked to spring patterns for palette preference. You are a light, warm outgoing person, friendly and caring; you like yellow, and have a deep need for plenty of light in your life. You do not stand on ceremony.

If you are successful in your job, and reach a position of leadership, you work on the basis of motivating subordinates with your enthusiasm - indeed, enthusiasm is a key characteristics of yours.
If you answer mostly
, you lean toward Summer palette pattern. You are quiet and gentle, rather shy but basically cool, calm and collected. Your favourite colour is blue and you prefer to keep things in proportion, both literally, as in your ideal room & psychological terms.

You have no wish for the limelight, and prefer to work behind the scenes quietly, where your strong nuturing instinct can sustain and balance the whole enterprise - whatever it may be.
If you answer mostly
, your preferred colour palette is autumn. You are essentially externally motivated, being eternally interested in people, and concepts of 'how' and 'why'. You are attracted to green and your ideal home environment will reflect the abundance and richness of the natural world. You are efficient and strong, but often complicate matters unnecessarily with judgemental attitudes and emotion.

If you answer mostly
, your palette preference is winter. You are intense and strong, but not a all externally motivated - you are quite 'centred'. You cannot stand clutter and need sense of space. Your ideal living area will be impressively designed, and you have a well-developed instinct for the most stylish presentation.

You are a born leader, with your ability to remain detached and objective, never letting sentiment obscure the greater good, and you do not waste time on academic questions.
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