Psychology

Introduction to Color Psychology



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The Psychology of Colors - Do Colors really have an effect on how we feel?

During my senior year in High School, the walls of our cafeteria were painted red, yellow, and green. The reasoning behind this was that these colors, when put side by side, were thought to magically induce hunger within the students. Perhaps, red, yellow, and green were suppose to subconsciously remind us of our favorite condiments: ketchup, mustard, and guacamole, but in the end it only made me lose my appetite. Although this strange color scheme certainly raised eyebrows among both the students and teachers, my High School was trying to follow the basic idea behind Color Psychology-that colors have a profound effect on how we feel.

It is not uncommon for people to have a favorite color. But why? Why do people favor one color over the other? Perhaps, the way the color makes us feel has a profound effect on why we tend to gravitate to more vibrant colors and steer clear of the dull ones. And although the idea may sound absurd, some psychologists and physiologists believe that colors can affect certain systems of the body. How, you ask? Well, color is obviously detected via the eye and brain, however, nervous impulses of the color channel do not only go to the brain. Some impulses travel to the pituitary and pineal glands through the hypothalamus, you may be able to assume that color affects other systems of our body as well.

It is thought that certain colors have both a psychological and physiological affect on us. For instance, warm colors are thought to evoke emotions ranging from feelings of warmth and comfort to anger and hostility. While cool colors, on the other hand, are thought to induce feelings of calmness to feelings of sadness or indifference.

Here is a list of colors and a few of the psychological and physiological affects they have on us:

Red:

This color has been as symbol for a variety of emotions ranging from anger, to vitality and to love and sexuality. Why are redheads often characterized as having fiery tempers? Perhaps we naturally associate red with anger and irritability. The physiological effect of red is increase blood pressure and stimulation of the adrenal glands. Pink, which is a lighter shade of red, tends to have the opposite effect of red. Pink tends to relax muscles and produce a calming effect.

Orange and Yellow:

Both orange and yellow are uplifting and happy colors. While orange relieves self-pity, lack of self-worth, and unwillingness to forgive, yellow boosts self-confidence and optimism. Both of which are considered to be a good antidepressant. Orange has been proven to stimulate the sexual organs while yellow has been proven to stimulates the brain, making you more alert. Yellow also activates the lymph system and cause your muscles to be more active, making you feel more energetic.

Green:

Green is usually associate with nature, and as a result it may produce a calming effect. Green may make us feel lazy and relaxed. Green is thought to help relax our muscles and promote deep breathing. Green is also believed to be good for your heart, as it helps bring physical equilibrium and relaxation. However, darker and grayer greens may have the opposite effect and actually be detrimental to ones health, a reason why sickened characters in cartoons often turn green.

Blue:

Blue is associated the both sadness and serenity. Whenever someone is depressed, they are described as feeling blue. It does appear that too much dark blue can be depressing, but blue is also a color that can help us relax from the chaos the day has brought. Blue may also be useful in eliminating insomnia, as the color stimulates the pituitary gland, which regulates sleep patterns. Blue has also been linked to the throat and thyroid gland, been proven to lower blood pressure and help the skeletal structure in keeping bone marrow healthy.

Purple:

Purple has been thought to stimulate creativity, spirituality, compassion, and even psychic powers. Although it is dubious whether you will have the ability to tell the future just by looking at purple, it has been shown to alleviate some conditions such as sunburns due to its purifying and antiseptic effect. The color appears to suppress hunger and balance the body's metabolism. Purple has also been thought to bring peace and combating shock and fear. Indigo, a lighter shade of purple, has also been used by doctors in Texas as an anesthesia in minor operations because its narcotic qualities.

Overall, Color Psychology is still an immature field in psychology and many psychologists find the idea to be dubious. However, it is still interesting to find out if certain colors really have an effect on us psychological because of the color itself or the connotations that our society has attached to them. For instance, do different cultures have different meanings behind certain colors, thus affecting their mood in different ways, or is the effect colors have on us universal?



Sources:

http://library.thinkquest.org/27066/psychology/nlcolorpsych.html
http://psychology.about.com/od/sensationandperception/a/colorpsych.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Color_psychology

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