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Color psychology is a field of study devoted to analyzing the effect of color on human behavior and feeling, distinct from phototherapy (the use of ultraviolet light to cure infantile jaundice). Color psychology is an immature field of study viewed dubiously by mainstream psychologists and therefore qualifies as "alternative medicine". Critics view it as an overstatement of what can be justified by research, and point out that different cultures have completely different interpretations of color.
Practitioners of color psychology, sometimes called color consultants, such as Jeanette Fisher of Joy to the Home, claim there are a number of reactions to color which seem to be noted in most persons. They also note that common physiological effects often accompany the psychological effects.
Color consultants claim hues in the red area of color are typically viewed as "warm" while those in the blue and green range are typically viewed as "cool". Reds are also viewed as active and exciting, while the blues and greens are viewed as soothing and passive. Physiological tests have revealed similar responses. It's claimed that red hues increase bodily tension and stimulate the autonomic nervous system, while "cool" hues release tension.
Color consultants also point to an increasing number of studies linking colors to specific responses. One study found that weight lifters have more powerful performances in blue rooms, and another study found that babies cry more frequently in yellow rooms. Color consultants believe that the colors used in the design of environment can have a significant impact on the emotions and performance of people within that environment.
Although color psychology is a relatively new area of scientific research, ancient civilizations believed in the influence of color on humans. The ancient Chinese, Egyptians, and Indians believed in chromotherapy, or healing with colors.
Cultural contexts of colorsEdit
Here are some common cultural connotations attached to colors in Western cultures, particularly in the United States:
|Gray||Elegance, humility, respect, reverence, stability, subtlety, timelessness, wisdom||Anachronism, boredom, decay, decrepitude, dullness, dust, pollution, urban sprawl|
|Red||Passion, strength, energy, fire, love, sex, excitement, speed, heat, leadership, masculinity, power||Danger, fire, gaudiness, blood, war, anger, revolution, radicalism, aggression, stop|
|Blue||Seas, skies, peace, unity, harmony, tranquility, calmness, coolness, confidence, water, ice, loyalty, conservatism, dependability, cleanliness, technology, winter||Depression, coldness, idealism, obscenity, ice, tackiness, winter|
|Green||Nature, spring, fertility, youth, environment, wealth, money (US), good luck, vigor, generosity, go, grass||Aggression, inexperience, envy, misfortune, jealousy, money, illness, greed|
|Yellow||Sunlight, joy, happiness, optimism, idealism, wealth (gold), summer, hope, air||Cowardice, illness (quarantine), hazards, dishonesty, avarice, sissification, weakness|
|Purple||Sensuality, spirituality, creativity, wealth, royalty, nobility, ceremony, mystery, wisdom, enlightenment||Arrogance, flamboyance, gaudiness, mourning, profanity, exaggeration, confusion|
|Orange||Buddhism, energy, balance, heat, fire, enthusiasm, flamboyance, playfulness||Aggression, arrogance, flamboyance, gaudiness, overemotion, warning, danger, fire|
|White||Reverence, purity, snow, peace, innocence, cleanliness, simplicity, security, humility, marriage, sterility, winter||Coldness, sterility, clinicism, surrender, cowardice, fearfulness, winter, unimaginative|
|Black||Modernity, power, sophistication, formality, elegance, wealth, mystery, style||Evil, death, fear, anonymity, anger, sadness, remorse, mourning, unhappiness, mystery|
|Brown||Calm, depth, natural organisms, nature, richness, rusticism, stability, tradition||Anachronism, boorishness, dirt, dullness, filth, heaviness, poverty, roughness|
Various cultures see color differently. In India, blue is associated with Krishna (a very positive association), green with Islam, red with purity (used as a wedding color) and brown with mourning. In most Asian cultures, yellow is the imperial color with many of the same cultural associations as purple in the west. In China, red is symbolic of celebration, luck and prosperity; white is symbolic of mourning and death, while green hats mean a man’s wife is cheating on him. In Europe colors are more strongly associated with political parties than they are in the U.S. In many countries black is synonymous with conservatism, red with socialism, while brown is still immediately associated with the Nazis. Many believe that blue is universally the best color as it has the most positive and fewest negative cultural associations across various cultures.
Studies have shown most colors have more positive than negative associations, and even when a color has negative association, it is normally only when used in a particular context.
People in many cultures have an automatic negative perception of the color black, according to some researchers1. Thomas Gilovich and Mark Frank found that sports teams with primarily black uniforms were significantly more likely to receive penalties in historical data. Students were more likely to infer negative traits from a picture of a player wearing a black uniform. They also taped staged football matches, with one team wearing black and another wearing white. Experienced referees were more likely to penalize black-wearing players for nearly identical plays. Finally, groups of students tended to prefer more aggressive sports if wearing black shirts themselves.
Most evidence suggests the lack of a single, universal psychological reaction to a particular color. For example, death is symbolized by black in most Western cultures and by white in many Eastern cultures. Even members of the same culture from different age groups can act differently. Referencing colors with emotions is developed by every individual because of they feel an emotion and then see a color repeated during this time. Then after the connection is ingrained, the referencing can go both ways.
- Frank, M. G. & Gilovich, T. (1988). The dark side of self and social perception: Black uniforms and aggression in professional sports. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54, 74-83.
- ColorQuiz An online personality test based on color psychology principles
- Colorwize 27 tests based on color psychology research.
- Color links Color psychology and color theory.
- http://www.shibuya.com/garden/colorpsycho.html Summary and analysis of major color psychology research
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