Colour Psychology: Does it Affect How you Feel?

colour psychology

-Avnish Mishra, Counseling Psychologist, BetterLYF Wellness

Colour Psychology is the study of how colours impact human behaviour or influence human psychology. Colour is a very strong communication method. It is a statement of the undertone to our emotions at times and to be able to read them is what colour psychology teaches. It helps us understand if there is an association between a specific colour and a specific mood. It might not always be right because these do have certain subjective understandings as well but most of the time, it is correctly depicted.

Does it affect how you feel?

Why do we feel bright and cheerful when we are wearing something in yellow? How does orange bring about a sense of energy and warmth? Why is red considered the colour of anger perhaps? Have we ever thought about why blue makes us feel at peace most times or why black is bold? While colours can be perceived subjectively, these are some general associations, but why in the first place does it happen?

It is because colour to a large extent is responsible for our emotional perception of a situation. This is why we see certain brands using particular colours in their logo or stores, or certain colour directors using specific colours in specific movies to depict and create a particular environment around a certain character. For example, every James Bond movie has a dark theme, to create an intense environment, most comedy movies have a bright and cheerful, vibrant colour palette.

How does Colour Impact Us, Our Moods, Feelings?

While there is a lack of research in this area to date, there have been some studies that have led to a certain understanding of colour psychology and how colour impacts our moods. Let us try and understand how colour impacts our moods, feelings and behaviours with a few colours:

  • Black– The colour black as per research has both, positive and negative connotations. It represents attractiveness, boldness, elegance and sophistication. If you have got a chance to watch any James Bond movie, doesn’t it resemble the protagonist? Black also is said to represent aggression, sadness, loneliness. Another side of the same character or look at Darth Vader, the ‘bad guy’ of any movie, isn’t it?
  • White- Farren Birren, in his book Colour Psychology and Colour Therapy,  talks about the significance of the white colour and mentions that it instills a sense of peacefulness, cleanliness, simplicity to a large extent and is also used to represent emptiness, loneliness and/or isolation. That is why, if you visit any real estate property when the builder is trying to sell it in the beginning, it is all painted white from the inside. Or look at Starbucks’s logo, white is the primary colour, isn’t it?
  • Red- Have you ever thought, why do referees use red to disqualify a player? To show dominance. Yes, Red is held responsible for anger, dominance, aggression. But, on the other hand, it is also read o be a colour of passion and desire. In a study conducted in 2008, it was observed that when people wore a red coloured dress, they were more likely to be perceived as being attractive than those who wore some other colour knowing that the purpose was to check attractiveness.
  • Blue- If we do not count the Monday Blues that define boredom or coldness, the blue colour also is said to represent, stability, calmness and serenity. Is that also the reason behind tranquility or peace being found or derived from water bodies, maybe yes.
  • Orange- A 2018 study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology showed that the colour orange was seen to have a happy, cheerful and exciting colour. Because of its higher wavelength, it has more visibility and a more lasting impact on our minds than most other colours. Another study showed that the orange colour was also responsible for people experiencing vibrancy.

Can Colour Psychology Influence our Performance and Behaviour?

Though there has not been much research on colour psychology, we do have some evidence to understand which colour impacts our psychology more and why, and why are they used in certain specific settings.

For example, a restaurant having warm lighting and ambience has a calmer guest lineup than a club, which has dark ambient lighting with red being the primary colour depicting or making people feel more excited, aggressive and passionate about whatever they are doing because that is the purpose of a club, right? Having said that, it is a clear indication that our behaviour changes based on the ambience we are in and we, therefore, imbibe the ambience in our behaviour thus acting accordingly as discussed above.

Similarly, we do not prefer getting a streak of red marks on our report cards or result sheets, right? That is a trigger for poor performance and therefore, we will try to avoid that as much as we can resulting in improved performance.

A study was conducted in a college in the United States, In the first of the six experiments described in the study, 71 U.S. colleges students were presented with a participant number coloured 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.

A lot of times, we do not understand and we are experiencing a certain emotion because of our ambience. Hopefully, this article will help us understand how our perception of colour defines our emotional response at that very moment.

A very renowned artist, Pablo Picasso said, “Colors, like features, follow the changes of the emotions.”

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