The Science of Color

If you use red to sell your product, you’re probably going to have more success. The same is true with yellow, which is the next best color choice. Advertisers and marketers have known this for many years, but scientists know it, too. The science of color says that reds and yellows make people want to buy things. Their heart rate increases and their pupils dilate just a bit. The colors excite these people. Sometimes an advertiser will use a color simply because it draws attention to a product. Other times color is used because it has a specific association with something the product relates to or something that the advertiser wants the consumer to think of. In the past colors were just chosen almost randomly, but the science of color is something that most companies and advertising firms take very seriously in today’s competitive market.

For companies who are concerned about health, green is a good choice. Because it symbolises nature and makes people think of plants and healthy, growing things and rebirth it only makes sense that these companies would want to use something that would connect with consumers in that way. The science of color isn’t just used for food, though. It can be used for hundreds of different types of products and it all depends on what kind of message the company wants to convey. This science also tells us that we should have no more than three colors per item when it comes to advertising and product packaging, because too many colors are confusing and can send a mixed message that consumers find unappealing. It is important that messages in the advertising industry be clear if products are to sell well.

The science of color can extend to people, too, and the colors that they choose to wear. If a person wears red or purple, he or she exhibits passion and strength and power. Some say that purple (not lavender) is the color of royalty. Yellow indicates a sunny disposition, and people who wear blue or green are usually calmer individuals – and they help make others feel calm, as well. Black and white are often used for elegance, such as men’s formal attire. Not everyone wears a particular color because it makes them feel good, but color is important in many aspects of our lives, and it can make a difference in how we feel and how we relate to our environment and others around us.

Color Therapy

Color therapy is a holistic and somewhat controversial style of healing, but since it is non-invasive it’s difficult to argue that it should not be tried. It dates back thousands of years to India, China, and other Egypt. Light of different wavelengths is used to produce color, and it is this same light that is used during the therapy. Light energy has an effect on all kinds of living cells, and what type of effect depends on the light energy that is used. It is believed by those who use healing therapies of this type that everything has a vibrational frequency, including human beings, and therefore the right light frequency can match or raise our vibrations, thus resulting in healing. This is very similar to aural or energy healing, and some of the Eastern traditions that use these types of techniques. Modern science tends to discount these, but they have been around for so long that it is becoming increasingly more difficult to ignore them and state that they don’t work or that they have no benefit.

Whether the problem is mental, emotional, or physical, color therapy can treat it. It is safe and effective, and there are no side effects. Practitioners of this therapy caution that it should not be used in place of medical advice but rather should be used along with it to provide the maximum benefit. Everyone has colors that they like more than others, and practitioners of color therapy believe that there are two reasons for this. Either something negative has happened to us that we associate with a particular color, or there is an imbalance in one of our bodily systems that causes us to have an aversion to a certain color.

A light box is generally used to direct color onto the body, but there are other ways to use color therapy, including the placing of colored cloths on a person, solarized water, meditation that involves color, and a special kind of breathing that also uses color. Many of these methods also employ visualization techniques that seem to work very well for a lot of people when used as an alternative or complementary therapy. Whether they are actually making a difference or whether it is due to the placebo effect cannot be proven scientifically. However, if they are working and they do no harm, there is no reason why color therapy and other treatments like it should not be included in the treatment regime that a person has.

Can Color Affect Mood?

The short answer is yes. The colors around us do affect the mood that we have. Red can make us excitable and blue or green pastels can calm us down, but there is more to it than that. While there are general associations with mood when it comes to color, the reaction that an individual person can have can be different than someone else. Just like everything else in life there are people who don’t fit into the ‘norms’ that society has, and the reaction to color is no exception to that. Different hues of color can also affect mood in the sense that a dark blue might have a different feeling than a light blue. It’s believed that a lot of these opinions and feelings about colors start in childhood and that people frame their opinions of color very early in life.

Studying young children and their response to color fits into the molds that researchers have seen with adults and how they react to color as well. Whether children are taught these responses by the way their parents react, however, seems unlikely because color – other than learning the names of the shades – isn’t really a topic of discussion. Most people don’t talk about the way that color makes them feel. They don’t really discuss it, it’s just something that is…and it’s hard to define. The psychological and physiological changes that come along with it are marked and noticeable, though, and that shows that the body responds to color even if the brain isn’t actively thinking about whether the color makes the person feel a certain way.

The hue, the saturation, and the brightness of the color all have to be evaluated when it comes to what kind of effect color has on mood. For example, purple is considered to be a power color, but lavender is not – it is more mystic, soothing, and spiritual. It would be a good color for a bedroom or a meditation room, but not such a good color for a room where work should get done or where a person needs to feel empowered. Studies have also shown that girls and boys are about the same in their opinions on color, but girls do tend to be more positive about brighter colors and more negative about darker colors, where boys don’t seem to have that same connotation with bright and dark colors.

The Importance of Color in Dreams

Dreams have fascinated people for hundreds of years. The ideas behind what they really are and where they come from have changed, and still not everyone agrees on them. One of the most interesting things about dreams is that some people dream in color and some people dream in black and white. In a waking state, color stimulates emotion. Red, for example, can be angry or exciting. Softer pastels are calming – especially greens and blues. Within a dream, color also evokes emotion, and it also might be created by the mind based on the emotions that are felt within the dream. In other words, you might dream something in a particular color because of the emotion you feel about it, not the other way around.

Most people dream in strong color, and some dream in vague color. Few people dream in black and white, although some do. Color can be optional on many things, of course, so our brain assigns color in dreams to certain objects. An example of this would be dreaming about a blue car instead of a green one. The processing of the dream is then affected by the processing of the color, and this is important to an understanding of how dreams work and what kinds of emotional responses they produce. Unfortunately, a lot of dream researchers of the past have spent very little time looking at color and how it affects and is affected by the dreams of people. They didn’t seem to see it as being important or significant in any way.

People respond to color on various levels. One of these is through the nervous system. It speeds up things like heart rate and breathing in the presence of red, and slows them down in the presence of blue and other, softer colors. Since it does this when the eyes see color while awake, it only makes sense that it would also respond to color that is ’seen’ in a dream. Studies have shown that these dream responses are similar to the responses that are seen when a person is awake, indicating that color has a lot of importance in the dreams of individuals. Not everyone thinks about color as having any kind of emotional response, but the physiological proof is clear and can’t be disputed. Color matters to the way that people feel, even when they’re asleep.


The Difference Between Color Emotion and Color Semantics

Semantics can sometimes be a problem, because they don’t always accurately describe what we need to say. Conversely, emotions are difficult to convey in words. For a long time, there was a school of thought surrounding what was called “color emotion.” Now that term has changed because it’s been found to be inaccurate. The emotions that colors convey are not the same thing as semantics. The relationship between color and the psychological response of the person seeing it has been studied for a long time, though, and people are always trying to come up with new and better ways to describe what they see and what they feel.

To that end, color-emotion exercises have been created that are designed to work with both semantics and emotion. These ask people to rate how they feel when they look at a particular color and give insight into what a lot of colors mean and how individuals can expect to feel when they are presented with certain colors, along with why that occurs. The study and interest behind color semantics and these kinds of tests came from the color research that started in the early 20th century, and then later from Kobayashi’s colour image scales’ in 1981. Color emotion became the standard term in 1997, but most of the research that was done under that term actually involved semantics instead and so was inconsistent with what it was really called. Some feel the terms are splitting hairs and should be left alone.

In short, color emotion deals with words like happiness, anxiety, and excitement, and color semantics is involved with term such as heavy, light, warm, cool, passive, and active. The distinction, though, is not always an easy one to make, and most people will say that color gives them a certain emotion because of the way it feels. This ties emotions and semantics together very tightly, and it looks like this will always be the way where color is concerned. For some people it has deep meaning and for others it simply provides comfort or a smile, but it generally always evokes some type of feeling. Trying to separate color emotion and color semantics is important from the standpoint of technicalities and research, but not so important to the individuals who look at a particular color and react to it in some way that makes a difference in their lives and their emotions.

Color Association in Different cultures

Depending on the culture, what a color means can be very different. In Taiwan, a person wearing a green hat will make others think that his or her spouse has not been faithful. Yellow means that the person might be a harlot. In China, white is seen as the color for mourning and funerals as opposed to black that’s more common in the West. This is believed by some to be because Hinduism and Buddhism – two of the most popular religions there – both see death as the move to a higher and better plane of existence. Because of that, death has a much more positive connotation. In the West, death is generally seen as an ending and therefore the negative connotation that comes with the color black makes more sense to the average American person, as well as to many people in Europe.

In Islam, gold and green are the colors for Paradise, and green and blue are common colors in that country for many things. They are seen in and around most of the mosques and they are important for peace and happiness. In the United States and other traditionally Christian countries, color is not as associated with church, but it is associated with many Christian holidays. Purple and pastel colors are for Easter, green for Christmas, etc. When a person goes from one country to another, he or she often forgets that it’s not only the language and the food that changes. The culture is totally different, too, and that means that the way that color is presented and interpreted will be different. Even within a culture there will be differences based on other demographics, but they won’t be as pronounced as the more standard opinions that a culture holds overall.

These are just a few examples of colors and their associations that not everyone will be familiar with. There are some more common ones, like green for luck and red for love, but not all countries see things this way. It can be a poor choice to assume that you know what another culture means by a specific color, so asking questions is a good idea. You can also do some research if you’re planning a trip to another country so you know a bit about their culture before you leave. You can avoid offending people that way, get a better understanding of culture and how color affects us, and have a more enjoyable trip.

How Does Color Psychology Work?

ColorA lot of people only think of color as being cosmetic, but it’s actually much more important than that. Color psychology teaches that color is light and a source of life, meaning that there are a lot of reactions to it on a level far beyond whether it is cosmetically enjoyed. It is also seen to be nature’s signaling system, letting us know about danger and all sorts of other issues that might be important. Primitive man didn’t have the knowledge and the science that we have today to go by, so he (or she) had to use colors and other information to make a determination about what was safe and what was not. The primitive instincts that were thought to be important back then are not thought to mean much now, but our reaction to colors indicate that those instincts still matter.

Even though we might today be contemplating something in the grocery store instead of in a mud hut or in the forest, that doesn’t mean that we don’t care what color it is. Color has very powerful connotations, and if the color of something turns us off we’ll likely avoid that product and buy something that makes us feel better, even if we’re not conscious of doing so. Sometimes we just have a ‘gut feeling’ about something, and while not always related to color, it certainly can be affected by what we see and how that makes us feel. Red is a strong color, along with purple and other deep but vibrant colors. These colors can make us angry, and excitable, and also make us feel powerful. If we see something in the store with those kinds of colors on it we might feel empowered by buying it or it might turn us off. That can depend on the color, but also on our mood at the time, the package design, and what the product actually is.

There have been a lot of studies written on color psychology but none of them are really recent, and there’s a reason for this – researchers still can’t get results that are conclusive and descriptive enough to tell them anything more than they already know. This makes explaining how color psychology actually works very difficult, because there are not enough definitive answers to explain it beyond the psychological, emotional, and physiological responses that are seen. We know there is a reaction, we just can’t completely explain why.

The History of Color Psychology

history booksColor psychology came about through the work of several different people. Naturally, they differed on the opinions of color and how it was perceived, but there were enough similarities in the end to make it valuable to people who study color today. Some colors have basically kept their same association throughout the years. White, for example, has been used for weddings throughout many areas of the world for a very long time. In symbolizes purity and virginity, but sometimes also death. In China and Japan the color also used to be seen at funerals, where black is the traditional funeral color in the Western world. Red is seen as a warning in the United States, but also the color of love. A cultural difference or misconception could easily arise from this dual meaning.

Color psychology has sometimes been mistaken for phototherapy, but they are not the same. Phototherapy is the use of light to help a medical condition, such as jaundice. Color psychology is more closely related to color semantics in the sense that it is closely involved with how a person perceives color and how it makes that person feel. The symbolism of color comes partially from study but also partially from folklore. There are some trends that have been lost to history and the only thing that a person today would have to go on are the tales that have been told of colors used for ceremonies and what they meant. A lot can be learned from this, but not as much as having actual evidence that can be touched and examined.

Unfortunately, some of the history of color psychology is clouded with misconceptions that the people of the day didn’t have any way of determining were incorrect. One of these is the idea that some animals become enraged at certain colors. We now know that animals don’t see color the same way that we do, and most of them see things in shades of grey and limited color options, so the color that we see when we look at something is not the color that they see when they look at the same object. Most of these discussions and the information that they were based on in the past also involved people who ‘went crazy’ when they saw certain colors because they had such a strong reaction to them. These are only speculation and these kinds have things have not been confirmed.