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psychology of color

What Color Are You?

In the last blog I talked about some basic emotion evoking properties of the four psychological primary colors.  There are however eleven basic colors all together. These include the secondary and the technically “non color” colors.

Imagine you’re on the beach, with your feet in the powdery white sand… in Tahiti.  You look out to the exquisitely crystal clear aqua blue and turquoise colored ocean as it fades out to the horizon and blends into the sky.  Or imagine yourself in the Gorge hiking up to the top of Multnomah Falls amongst the perfectly untouched greenery of ferns, wildflowers and hundreds of species of plant life and trees. I get feelings of quiet peace and calm serenity.  What feelings do YOU get?

It’s amazing how not even actually seeing the colors but just imaging them can also evoke a particular emotion!

Here are more psychological properties of basic colors…

ORANGE.

Positive: Physical comfort, food, warmth, security, sensuality, passion, abundance, fun.
Negative: Deprivation, frustration, frivolity, immaturity.

Since it is a combination of red and yellow, orange is stimulating and reaction to it is a combination of the physical and the emotional. It focuses our minds on issues of physical comfort – food, warmth, shelter etc. – and sensuality. It is a ‘fun’ color. Negatively, it might focus on the exact opposite – deprivation. This is particularly likely when warm orange is used with black. Equally, too much orange suggests frivolity and a lack of serious intellectual values.

VIOLET. Spiritual.

Positive: Spiritual awareness, containment, vision, luxury, authenticity, truth, quality.
Negative: Introversion, decadence, suppression, inferiority.

The shortest wavelength is violet, often described as purple. It takes awareness to a higher level of thought, even into the realms of spiritual values. It is highly introversive and encourages deep contemplation, or meditation. It has associations with royalty and usually communicates the finest possible quality. Being the last visible wavelength before the ultra-violet ray, it has associations with time and space and the cosmos. Excessive use of purple can bring about too much introspection and the wrong tone of it communicates something cheap and nasty, faster than any other color.

PINK.

Positive: Physical tranquility, nurture, warmth, femininity, love, sexuality, survival of the species.
Negative: Inhibition, emotional claustrophobia, emasculation, physical weakness.

Being a tint of red, pink also affects us physically, but it soothes, rather than stimulates. (Interestingly, red is the only color that has an entirely separate name for its tints. Tints of blue, green, yellow, etc. are simply called light blue, light green etc.) Pink is a powerful color, psychologically. It represents the feminine principle, and survival of the species; it is nurturing and physically soothing. Too much pink is physically draining and can be somewhat emasculating.

GREY.

Positive: Psychological neutrality.
Negative: Lack of confidence, dampness, depression, hibernation, lack of energy.

Pure grey is the only color that has no direct psychological properties. It is, however, quite suppressive. A virtual absence of color is depressing and when the world turns grey we are instinctively conditioned to draw in and prepare for hibernation. Unless the precise tone is right, grey has a dampening effect on other colors used with it. Heavy use of grey usually indicates a lack of confidence and fear of exposure.

BLACK.

Positive: Sophistication, glamour, security, emotional safety, efficiency, substance.
Negative: Oppression, coldness, menace, heaviness.

Black is all colors, totally absorbed. The psychological implications of that are considerable. It creates protective barriers, as it absorbs all the energy coming towards you, and it enshrouds the personality. Black is essentially an absence of light, since no wavelengths are reflected and it can, therefore be menacing; many people are afraid of the dark. Positively, it communicates absolute clarity, with no fine nuances. It communicates sophistication and uncompromising excellence and it works particularly well with white. Black creates a perception of weight and seriousness.
It is a myth that black clothes are slimming:

BROWN.

Positive: Seriousness, warmth, Nature, earthiness, reliability, support.
Negative: Lack of humor, heaviness, lack of sophistication.

Brown usually consists of red and yellow, with a large percentage of black. Consequently, it has much of the same seriousness as black, but is warmer and softer. It has elements of the red and yellow properties. Brown has associations with the earth and the natural world. It is a solid, reliable color and most people find it quietly supportive – more positively than the ever-popular black, which is suppressive, rather than supportive.

WHITE.

Positive: Hygiene, sterility, clarity, purity, cleanness, simplicity, sophistication, efficiency.
Negative: Sterility, coldness, barriers, unfriendliness, elitism.

Just as black is total absorption, so white is total reflection. In effect, it reflects the full force of the spectrum into our eyes. Thus it also creates barriers, but differently from black, and it is often a strain to look at. It communicates, “Touch me not!” White is purity and, like black, uncompromising; it is clean, hygienic, and sterile. The concept of sterility can also be negative. Visually, white gives a heightened perception of space. The negative effect of white on warm colors is to make them look and feel garish.

What colors surround you at work, or at home? They just might be what’s sparking a certain amount of irritability with a coworker or not allowing you to harness your full creative potential, or maybe they’re what’s keeping you from relaxing when you get home. Or just maybe your home is your oasis and you wouldn’t change a thing?  Something to think about…

 

~Melanie Gibbs