The Psychology of Color

The Psychology of Color

Colors, like features, follow the changes of the emotions. – Pablo Picasso

Color psychology is the study of the effects of colors on human behaviour. Color is a form of non-verbal communication. Ideas, feelings, and emotions can be expressed with colors, and colors affect us in many ways.

Color and Marketing

Color psychology is widely used in branding and marketing. Designers and artists have long understood how the psychology of color influences our feelings, moods, and emotions. For example, they understand that when the colors of a brand’s logo matches the personality of the company’s goods or services, the logo seems to attract more customers. One such example is the pink logo of Victoria’s Secret.

In marketing, colors are not only important in logos, but they are also crucial for a store’s window displays. Research finds that warms colors tend to be more inviting and attract spontaneous shoppers.

Color and Culture

Colors have been a part of many cultures and societies for a long time. Researches have shown that our color preference may depend on the habitats that were beneficial to our ancestors. A survey of art preferences in various nations and cultures found that most people prefer realistic painting with water and trees. When asked about their preferred colors, most of them chose blue and green. Based on the data collected in the survey, researchers painted a painting that shows the preferences of each culture. Surprisingly, despite the cultural differences, the paintings of these nations showed a very strong similarity.

However, some colors do have different meanings in different cultures. In a study done by Li-Chen Ou et al, researchers wanted to see if the Chinese and British show any difference in their color preferences. They present each participant with 20 colors and ask him or her to rate the colors on different emotions. The results showed that most Chinese participants liked colors that they rated as fresh, modern, and clean, while the British participants did not show such pattern.

Color and Gender

From the day that we were born, implications have been made about our gender and color. Baby girls wear pink while baby boys wear blue. Even though there are no rules with regards to what colors are masculine and what colors are feminine, studies have drawn some generalizations.

Toys are often categorized based on color. In one study, researchers showed adult participants blurry images of toys where the only feature visible was its color. When the participants saw bold colored toys, such as black and red, they categorized the toy as a boy’s toy; when they saw pastel colored toys, such as pink and purple, they categorized it as a girl’s toy. Even toy companies use color associations for each gender.

Differences in color preferences are also found in adults. Men and women could seldom agree on which colors should be classified as feminine and masculine.

Color and Mood

There is no denying that our mood is inextricably linked to color. Otherwise, phrases like “seeing red”, “green with envy”, or “feeling blue” wouldn’t have existed.

There are various reasons why colors can influence how we feel. We react to colors on multiple levels of association, such as cultural level and social level. Some reactions may even be innate. For example, when we see the red color, our heart rate increases as it is a stimulating color. This reaction goes all the way back to the caveman days when our ancestors associated red with fire, blood, and danger.

Warm colors such as red, yellow, and orange tend to evoke feelings of optimism and happiness. However, some people find that orange and yellow irritative to their eyes, while red makes us hungry. That’s why restaurants like McDonald’s incorporate red in the design of their restaurants and logo. Cool colors, such as blue, green, and purple, are soothing and calming, but they also express a sense of sadness.

Image credit: Capture Queen

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