How We Are Affected by the Psychology of Color

Mood, emotion and behavior are all affected by the colors that surround us.

Are you physically and emotionally affected by color? Probably more than you think. Have you ever wondered why restaurants use stimulating primary colors like bright red and yellow while doctors’ offices and hospitals use the more calming hues of blues and greens? Researchers have shown that there is a definite connection between color and positive or negative responses. So what meaning do we attach to color?


Red is the symbol of love, blood and life! We also associate red with giving which is one of the reasons why you probably cannot think of Valentine’s Day or Christmas devoid of this bold color. Red elicits not only emotional responses ranging from excitement to anger but physical responses as well, that may include an increased appetite, heart rate and breathing. With its unmatched attention-drawing qualities, red is by far the most intense color in the rainbow.


Have you ever heard the phrase “Tickled pink”? Pink has had a long-standing association to youthfulness, happiness and joy.  Because of the extreme calming effects of the color pink, it has become a popular color choice for prison cell walls in an effort to reduce erratic behavior displayed by criminals.


Like red, yellow is an attention getter. Associated with optimism, laughter and good times, yellow actually speeds metabolism, sparks creativity and releases serotonin in the brain. On the downside, yellow may make babies cry more and people are more likely to let their tempers flare when surrounded by yellow.


What’s your favorite color? One of the most popular answers is blue. We recognize its calming effects when we look at the sky or water. Even just imagining the color blue can cause a person to experience tranquility. People interviewing for jobs might want to consider blue attire as this color also carries a strong association to loyalty and productivity.


Green is the color of money! Replete with qualities of good luck, wealth and fertility, green is a color that pleases the senses. Used in every imaginable venue from living rooms to hospitals, green is a favorite among decorators for its calming effect and obvious association with nature.


Historically purple was touted as the royal color and today purple continues to symbolize the attributes of luxury and sophistication. Lending a feminine and mysterious charm, the many shades of purple continue to be a favorite among adolescent girls.


With an increasing trend toward all things organic and natural comes the ever-growing popularity of the color brown. A favorite among men, brown represents stability and reliability – as solid as the Earth itself.


Symbolic white implies everything from purity in a bridal gown to sterility in medical attire. White is also associated with neutrality and peace as is often seen in the color of a surrender flag. Representative of truth, simplicity and cleanliness, white encompasses all colors of the rainbow.


Like white, gray has the ambience of neutrality as well as carrying connotations of respect, wisdom and reverence. On the flip side, gray can be representative of boredom, decay and decrepitude.


Although powerful and authoritative, black has a “dark” side. It is widely associated with funerals and grieving, as well as depravity and wickedness. Think of the color of the “bad” cowboy’s hat or Dracula’s cape. While its evil associations will continue to abound, black also embodies the qualities of class and intelligence, as seen in elegant formal wear or black doctoral robes.

Although our perception of color may differ from person to person, the psychological impact of color is universal. Our mood, emotion and behavior are affected by the colors that we see and the meanings that we attach to them. Colors excite and warm us or subdue and relax us. They characterize our personalities and they symbolize our values.

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Posted on Oct 29, 2009