How can colours affect our mind, emotions and behaviours?
How is your perspective influenced by colour?
Understanding colour and the human mind
“The human eye and brain together translate light into colour. Light receptors within the eye transmit messages to the brain, which produces the familiar sensations of colour.”
Colour can no doubt play a significant role in presenting information, influencing particular moods and even impacting the choices people make. Colour preferences determine items people decide to purchase, the outfits they wear, and the way they decorate their living space.
People often pick objects in colours that promote certain moods or feelings, such as selecting a car colour that seems vibrant, modern, stylish or reliable. Room colours can also be used to set specific auras, such as painting a bedroom a soft blue to create a tranquil setting.
More scientific research is needed to gain a better understanding of colour psychology but experts can categorically state that colour influences how we feel and act. Taking into account personal, cultural, and situational factors alongside colour can go a long way to appreciating how an individual reacts on a day-to-day basis.
In 1666, Sir Isaac Newton discovered that when pure white light passes through a prism, it separates into all of the visible colours. He also determined that each colour is composed of a single wavelength which can’t be separated any further into other colours.
Despite this, however, light can combine to create other colours. In a similar way that you mix paint to form other colours, red light mixed with yellow light creates an orange colour. Differentiation comes when some colours cancel each other out when mixed and result in a white light. A clear example of this would be magenta and green.
Colour psychology has become a powerful marketing tool and plays a big part in both art and design despite limited research on it being widely available.
Evidence isn’t based on scientific fact and has come to the fore mostly from individual recollection so how reliable it is can be questioned. That being said, researchers and experts have made several educated observations about the psychology of colour and the effect it has on moods, feelings, and behaviours.
Culture and individual life experience both influence how we feel when we see colours. An example of this would be the colour black. In many countries, it is seen as a symbol of death, worn at funerals to express sadness at the loss of a person. In Africa, black is a colour of masculinity and maturity.
Does Colour Really Affect Pulse Rate And Blood Pressure?
A study conducted by Soojin Lee and Stephen Westland of the University of Leeds aimed to explore the common theory that colour affects our heart rate and blood pressure as previous attempts had failed to produce much evidence.
The study involved 42 participants exploring the effect of an environment's colour:
“Physiological measurements were taken of blood pressure and pulse rate after exposure to coloured-light environments for about 20 minutes. It was found that pulse rate was raised under red light compared with blue and green light. It was also found that blood pressure was raised under red light. However, no statistically significant effects were observed.” (Professor S. Westland, University of Leeds)
Can Children’s Learning Performance Be Influenced By Colours?
Dr Yiting Duan of Zhejiang Sci-tech University conducted a study on the impact of colour on people’s response and behaviour, and more specifically on children’s learning environment. Conducted amongst primary school children over a two-week period, a colour tendency test and psychological experiment used 3 different coloured environments to examine the children.
In the red environment, children showed a quicker reaction time for logical questions and improved accuracy of answers. The results of the blue and yellow environment were similar. Whilst the influence in the logic test was not clear, the detailed test was more conclusive:
“The influence was not obvious in the logic test, but it could improve the accuracy in the detail test, which shows how yellow and blue stimulates children’s attention and accuracy.” (Dr Y.Duan)
“The influence was not obvious in the logic test, but it could improve the accuracy in the detail test, which shows how yellow and blue stimulates children’s attention and accuracy.”
Dr Y. Duan
Therapy via Colour Psychology
Ancient cultures including the Egyptians and Chinese practised chromotherapy. They believed that the use of colours could aid healing and sometimes referred to it as light therapy or colourology. This alternative, holistic treatment is still used today and the foundation of it is based on these theories about colours:
Indigo: Shades are thought to alleviate skin problems
Orange: Improves energy levels and is used to heal the lungs
Red: Increases circulation and is used to stimulate the body and mind
Blue: Treats pain and is believed to soothe illnesses
Yellow: Purifies the body and is thought to stimulate the nerves
Ultimately, colours play a significant part in our lives and perhaps many of us fail to see the importance of colour. It has an impact on so many aspects of our lives that run far deeper than we might realise.
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