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Psychology of Color – Part 1

What Color Are You?

Have you ever gone somewhere and felt agitated, or irritable and couldn’t put your finger on why?  Or maybe there is a particular coffee shop you love going into and just relaxing while you enjoy your java.  Sometimes the reasons are unmistakable, but to many we’re not sure why some places just seem to evoke subtle, or sometimes strong emotional reactions.

Can these feelings be encouraged by something that is sometimes seen as simply just a color?  You betcha!  We can ALL be affected by this phenomenon.  The emotions are funny things, but if you think about it, it’s really not all that strange. SO many things related to our senses affect the way we feel, from textures and tastes, to music and smells!  Color is no different.  It’s actually more powerful than you might think.

In this first section I’ll describe some effects of the psychological primary colors…

 

RED. Physical.

Positive: Physical courage, strength, warmth, energy, basic survival, ‘fight or flight’, stimulation, masculinity, excitement.
Negative: Defiance, aggression, visual impact, strain.

Being the longest wavelength, red is a powerful colour. Although not technically the most visible, it has the property of appearing to be nearer than it is and therefore it grabs our attention first. Hence its effectiveness in traffic lights the world over. Its effect is physical; it stimulates us and raises the pulse rate, giving the impression that time is passing faster than it is. It relates to the masculine principle and can activate the “fight or flight” instinct. Red is strong, and very basic. Pure red is the simplest colour, with no subtlety. It is stimulating and lively, very friendly. At the same time, it can be perceived as demanding and aggressive.

 

YELLOW. Emotional.

Positive: Optimism, confidence, self-esteem, extraversion, emotional strength, friendliness, creativity.
Negative: Irrationality, fear, emotional fragility, depression, anxiety, suicide.

The yellow wavelength is relatively long and essentially stimulating. In this case the stimulus is emotional, therefore yellow is the strongest colour, psychologically. The right yellow will lift our spirits and our self-esteem; it is the colour of confidence and optimism. Too much of it, or the wrong tone in relation to the other tones in a colour scheme, can cause self-esteem to plummet, giving rise to fear and anxiety. Our “yellow streak” can surface.

 

BLUE. Intellectual.

Positive: Intelligence, communication, trust, efficiency, serenity, duty, logic, coolness, reflection, calm.
Negative: Coldness, aloofness, lack of emotion, unfriendliness.

Blue is the colour of the mind and is essentially soothing; it affects us mentally, rather than the physical reaction we have to red. Strong blues will stimulate clear thought and lighter, soft blues will calm the mind and aid concentration. Consequently it is serene and mentally calming. It is the colour of clear communication. Blue objects do not appear to be as close to us as red ones. Time and again in research, blue is the world’s favourite colour. However, it can be perceived as cold, unemotional and unfriendly.

GREEN. Balance.

Positive: Harmony, balance, refreshment, universal love, rest, restoration, reassurance, environmental awareness, equilibrium, peace.
Negative: Boredom, stagnation, blandness, enervation.

Green strikes the eye in such a way as to require no adjustment whatever and is, therefore, restful. Being in the centre of the spectrum, it is the colour of balance – a more important concept than many people realise. When the world about us contains plenty of green, this indicates the presence of water, and little danger of famine, so we are reassured by green, on a primitive level. Negatively, it can indicate stagnation and, incorrectly used, will be perceived as being too bland.

…To be continued…

-Melanie Gibbs

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