Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Colour and emotion

I thought it was definitely time I started to look at the impact of colour on how we feel emotionally.  Colour as a device to influence feeling has long been established in art, advertising, marketing and just about any phase of life where we might be susceptible to having our perceptions and feelings changed and many worthy papers have been generated on the subject by psychologists and others who would wish to influence us.  The Colour Affects  website carries a neat summary of the basic feelings associated with different colours and a personal synthesis of views from various sources (e.g. Freeman (2007) and Color Psychology) point at the conclusions I have drawn below.
Red has power and is the colour that takes attention of the viewer first as it has the property of appearing nearer than it actually is (never noticed the nearness thing – must check).  Obviously widely used in warning signs and lights.  It is negatively associated with aggression, defiance and stress and positively with warmth and strength and excitement and energy.  It is often linked with masculine symbols (Ferrari, Marlboro, Red Bull, McLaren to name but a few).   Red is used linguistically as well as visually to indicate strong emotion (e.g. red hot, red handed, see red etc.) so its perception covers several levels of human emotion.
Green is the universal colour of peace, harmony and tranquillity and has a refreshing psychological impact although it does have some negative connotations tending towards tedium and boredom.  The wavelength of green light is in the middle of the visible light spectrum and its restful and balanced qualities are attributed to this.  At a very deep psychological level, it has been suggested that green is the colour of growth and food and therefore has a calming effect at a fundamental human level.  There are linguistic connotations again here – actors relax in the green room, and negatively, green with envy.
Blue is seen as an intellectual colour and its positive associations see it used in advertising to offer efficiency and trust in business and finance and also with logic, calmness and coolness.  Its association with water also sees blue as reflective and serene and features extensively in advertising around certain holiday destinations and medications.  It is claimed that bright blues are stimulants to thought and paler shades influence concentration.  Much used by companies who advertise management consultancy and according to numerous Google sources, is always voted as the top colour in the world and features in more sports kits than any other.  However, on the negative side, it can also been seen as cold and unfriendly.  If you go to Colour Affects and complete the poll, you will find that blue was the favourite colour from over 340,000 people who have clicked the survey!
Passion, fun and sensuality are apparently conveyed by orange (strange then that it is the colour of the Dutch!!) as well as carelessness and lack of concern for impact.  Orange used with black is associated with particularly negative feelings and lack of gravity. 
Yellow is claimed to have a strong emotional effect and cause a psychological boost and outburst of creativity as long as it is the within the right tonal range and in association with the ‘correct’ other colours.  According to Colour Affects, get it wrong and your confidence and self-esteem will plummet.
Violet is the shortest wavelength (remember ROYGBIV from school  ?) and reputedly has spiritual qualities around awareness and ultimate truth – not sure I go for that, but it is widely referenced.  Negatively it is seen as a colour which gives feelings of negativity and feelings of smallness and insignificance.  It has strong associations with top quality and is widely used in various regalia associated with monarchy.  However, advertisers assert that overuse of violet/purple make people think of low quality and tacky products faster than any other colour, which is interesting.
There is a vast amount of information on colour available from books and the internet, and I have no intention of trying to produce an exhaustive treatise where many others have been before, but I did feel it essential to record a few thoughts on the emotional impact of colour at this point in my learning.  On reflection, it might have been an unwise choice to publish my blog in black and orange, so I hope assessors do not get overwhelmed with feeling of negativity, lack of gravity and violence as they read !!  I have no intention of tangling with the workings of Blogger at this stage to change anything, so I’ll just note the point and continue!!

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