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The Psychology of Colour

Did you know the colours in your surroundings may be influencing your emotions and state of mind? Do you ever notice that certain places irritate you? Or that certain places are especially relaxing and calming? Well, there’s a good chance that the colours in those spaces are playing a part. It is everywhere you look, and everywhere you don’t look. You delight in its marvels consciously and sub-consciously. You see colour all the time, but how often do you think about its origins and effects?

Colour psychology focuses on the effects of colours on people. Of course, there are always other unknown variables at play but colours are strong influencers on our moods and psyche, they may influence your mental or physical state. For example, studies have shown that some people looking at the colour red resulted in an increased heart rate, which then led to additional adrenaline being pumped into the bloodstream.

What is Colour?

There are 2 main sources of light that create the colours we see: the sun and lightbulbs. The sun allows us to see during the day, as well as during the night when the sun’s light reflects off the moon. There is a visible spectrum of colours that we can see. A combination of all colours is what we see as white. The absence of colour is what we call black. Surfaces reflect and absorb light differently, which results in the colours we see through our eyes. The coloured light enters the eye through the pupil, goes through the lens, then reaches the back of the eye called the retina. On the retina there are a bunch of light sensors called rods and cones. These rods and cones send a signal to the brain about what the eye is seeing.

Primary colours consist of red, yellow, and blue. These 3 hues cannot be mixed or formed by any combination of other colours. Additionally, all other colours are created by mixing these three colours. While it is common knowledge that light enters through our eyes, it’s important to note that light can also enter through our skin. Given the unique frequencies and vibrations of various colours, people believe that certain colours entering the body can activate hormones causing chemical reactions within the body, then influencing emotion and enabling the body to heal.

The psychiatrist Carl Jung was a strong proponent of art therapy and encouraged his patients to use colour because he believed this would help them express some of the deeper parts of their psyche. Some psychologists also believe that the colour choices you make reflect a deeper meaning about your personality traits. There is evidence of people attempting to use colour for healing and therapy from as far back as 2000 years. And it has gained in popularity throughout the years, with numerous books being written about it, including Johann Wolfgang Goethe who studied the physiological effects of colour.

A Brief look at the psychology of colour

Colours are known to have an effect on people with brain disorders or people with emotional troubles. For example, the colour blue can have a calming effect which can then result in lower blood pressure, whereas the color red might have the opposite effect. Green is another colour that may be used to relax people who are emotionally unbalanced. Yellow, on the other hand, may be used to help invigorate people who might be suffering from depression.

There are also commonly noted psychological effects of colour as it relates to two main categories: warm and cool.

Cool colours (green, blue and purple) often spark feelings of calmness, as well as sadness.

Warm colours (red, yellow and orange) can spark a variety of emotions ranging from comfort and warmth to hostility and anger.

Depending on the culture or society, colours may symbolize different things for different people making them part of social psychology too. The concepts of colour psychology can also be applied in everyday life. For example, maybe you’re planning on re-painting or redecorating a room with a new colour scheme, then you might want to consider some of these suggestions about colours and how they might affect your emotions and mood. Similarly if your are decorating an office space or branding your company, you may want to think of the associated effects of the colours you are choosing.

Cool Colours

Cool colours are typically calming and serene, said to decrease respiration and lower blood pressure. Cool colours include green, blue, and purple, and variations of those three colors. Blue is the only primary colour within the cool spectrum. Greens take on some of the attributes of yellow, and purple takes on some of the attributes of red. They are often more subdued than warm colours. They evoke a cool feeling because they remind us of things like water or grass.

Need to be creative? Want help getting those brain synapses firing? Try utilizing the colour purple. Purple utilizes both red and blue to provide a nice balance between stimulation and serenity that is supposed to encourage creativity. Light purple is said to result in a peaceful surrounding, thus relieving tension. These could be great colours for a home or business office.

Are you looking for a peaceful and calming environment? You might consider using green or blue. These cool colours are typically considered restful. There is actually a bit of scientific logic applied to this – because the eye focuses the colour green directly on the retina, it is said to be less strainful on your eye muscles. The colour blue or grey is suggested for high-traffic rooms or rooms that you or other people will spend significant amounts of time.. The bedroom is a great place to use these colors as they should help you relax.

Warm colours

Warm colours consist of orange, red, yellow, and combinations of these and similar colours. As the name indicates, they tend to make you think of warm things, such as sunlight and heat.

Want to create an environment of stimulation or whet people’s appetite? You might consider utilizing the colours yellow or orange. These colours are often associated with food and can cause your tummy to growl a little. Have you ever wondered why so many restaurants use these colours? Now you know why you feel so hungry seeing KFC Red.

You do want to be careful about using bright colours like orange and especially yellow. They reflect more light and excessively stimulate a person’s eyes which can lead to irritation. You also probably don’t want to paint your dining room or kitchen these colours if you’re a calorie-counter.

Psychology of Colour for Marketing & Advertising

Marketing and advertising are well-known for utilizing color psychology. The fact that some companies have heavily invested in this type of research and many others have followed through in its use shows they have at enough belief in the concepts of colour psychology to implement them in their advertising.

Colour is consistently used in an attempt to make people hungry, associate a positive or negative tone, encourage trust, feelings of calmness or energy, and countless other ways. Most marketing and advertising executives will likely agree that there are benefits to understanding colours and their effects.

Check out this link for common colours and their potential effects or meanings:

Yours sincerely,

The Humble Humanologist

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