Can Blue Make You Feel Blue?

Colors and emotions are closely linked. They are also part of our every day lives, especially with how we present ourselves. Warm colors can evoke different emotions than cool colors and bright colors can create different feelings than muted colors. … Every color creates different emotions and feelings. Colors can make us feel happy or sad, and they can make us feel hungry or relaxed.2 Can colors have much influence over our daily interactions and emotions? Is there a psychology to color? Are we being influenced in marketing and in life and not even realize it?

Let’s explore those questions and dig deep into the impact and psychological need for color.

When I was younger I was told to carry a red umbrella, so that I could stand out in a world of black umbrellas. Can color be that powerful to take us from ordinary to extraordinary in order to simply stand out in this world? 

The Psychological Effects of Color

Why is color such a powerful force in our lives? What effects can it have on our bodies and minds? While perceptions of color are somewhat subjective, there are some color effects that have universal meaning.1

Colors in the red area of the color spectrum are known as warm colors and include red, orange, and yellow. These warm colors evoke emotions ranging from feelings of warmth and comfort to feelings of anger and hostility.1

Colors on the blue side of the spectrum are known as cool colors and include blue, purple, and green. These colors are often described as calm, but can also call to mind feelings of sadness or indifference.1

Color Psychology as Therapy

Several ancient cultures, including the Egyptians and Chinese, practiced chromotherapy, or the use of colors to heal. Chromotherapy is sometimes referred to as light therapy or colorology.

Colorology is still used today as a holistic or alternative treatment.2 In this treatment:

  • Red is used to stimulate the body and mind and to increase circulation.
  • Yellow is thought to stimulate the nerves and purify the body.
  • Orange is used to heal the lungs and to increase energy levels.
  • Blue is believed to soothe illnesses and treat pain.
  • Indigo shades are thought to alleviate skin problems.

Color and Emotional Influences in Marketing

According to Very Well Mind, color psychology suggests that various shades can have a wide range of effects, from boosting our moods to causing anxiety. But could the color of the products you purchase ever say something about your personality? For example, could the color of the car you buy somehow relate to some underlying personality traits or quirks?1

Your color preferences why buying items might say something about the type of image you may be trying to project. Color preferences, from the clothes you wear to the car you drive, can sometimes make a statement about how we want other people to perceive us. Other factors such as age and gender can also influence the color choices we make.

  • White: The color white can feel fresh and clean. The color is often used to promote a sense of youth and modernity. White is also pure, innocent and refreshing. It’s quiet, subtle and soft. 
  • Black: is often described as a “powerful” color, which might be the reason why black is the most popular color for luxury vehicles. People often describe the color as sexy, powerful, mysterious, and even ominous. Black is known to be slimming in fashion and probably the most common apparel color as it can be pared with virtually anything and be stylish. 
  • Silver: It’s the third most popular color for vehicles and linked to a sense of innovation and modernity. High tech products are often silver, so the color is often linked to things that are new, modern, and cutting-edge. Silver is also flashy, stylish and stable of all accent colors. 
  • Red: Dreaming of a red vehicle? Red is a bold, attention-getting color, so preferring this type of car might mean you want to project an image of power, action, and confidence. Red also is seen and remembered better as it stand out in traffic, so if you have a tendency to drive too fast, perhaps a red vehicle is not for you. But if standing out is important, red will do just that. Red lipstick, red shoes, red handbags, a red scarf all will take notice and have a powerful reaction or even a double take on the observer. Red also makes you fell empowered as you wear it. Feelings of strength, confidence, passion and self-esteem are associated with wearing bold colors like red. 
  • Blue: People often describe blue as the color of stability and safety. Driving a blue car or SUV might indicate that you are dependable and trustworthy. 
  • Yellow: According to the experts, driving a yellow vehicle might mean that you are a happy person in general and perhaps a bit more willing than the average person to take risks. Yellow is sunshine, bright, cheery and one that enjoys doing fun things. 
  • Gray: The experts suggest that people who drive gray cars don’t want to stand out and instead prefer something a bit more subtle. Gray is also practical as it hides the dirt well. (you have to be practical sometimes)

Of course, the color selections we make are often influenced by factors including price, selection, and other practical concerns. Not only that, but color preferences can also change in time.1

A person might prefer brighter, more attention-getting colors when they are younger, but find themselves drawn to more traditional colors as they grow older. The personality of the buyer can play an important role in color selection, but buyers are often heavily influenced by factors such as price as well as availability.1

For example, purchasing a white vehicle might be less about wanting people to think that you are young and modern and more about the climate you live in; people who live in hot climates typically prefer light-colored vehicles over dark ones.1

Color Can Influence Performance

Very Well Mind tells us that studies have also shown that certain colors can have an impact on performance. No one likes to see a graded test covered in red ink, but one study found that seeing the color red before taking an exam actually hurt test performance.

While the color red is often described as threatening, arousing or exciting, many previous studies on the impact of the color red have been largely inconclusive. The study found, however, that exposing students to the color red prior to an exam has been shown to have a negative impact on test performance.

In the first of the six experiments described in the study, 71 U.S. colleges students were presented with a participant number colored either red, green or black prior to taking a five-minute test.

The results revealed that students who were presented with the red number before taking the test scored more than 20% lower than those presented with the green and black numbers.

Impact of Color in Daily Lives and Heritage

Feelings about Color

Your feelings about color are often deeply personal and rooted in your own experience or culture. For example, while the color white is used in many Western countries to represent purity and innocence, it is seen as a symbol of mourning in many Eastern countries.1

My favorite color is green. Specifically spring green. Green may have an association for money….as how much GREEN you can make. But for me, it has a strong tie with nature and growth. I simply love the (nice weather) outdoors, I love the spring when the grass is green and the leaf buds are coming back on the trees. Green SMELLS like spring to me if that is even possible to imagine. I love plants and lawns and nature. Green has become a strong influence to me in my purchases and in my decorating. I’m drawn to the color green like I am drawn to the outdoors. I know it affects my feelings. Green energizes me. And I know that my purchasing is impacted by colors. I tend to decorate in blue. Blue draws me in. Blue, for me, is strong and stable. It is also both calming and commanding. I also love to accent with red. Red is passionate and bold. It is also a strong color with a distinct personalty. Midwest fall is probably my favorite time of the year. Fall is an eclectic amount of colors that makes me feel warm and festive. Orange, red, yellow and browns with the crisp air give a sense of meaning that, unless you are an outdoors kind of person, that you can’t describe other than it is simply beautiful as you breathe it in. For about 2.5 short weeks in October there is a row of trees out my back gate that the leaves LIGHT UP as fire tips on the edge of the brown branches. It’s breathtaking. In late October, THAT is my favorite color. It makes me feel alive. It is sad that some of the best colors of nature occur as they are saying goodbye. Color, for me, has a direct line to my emotions, reactions and purchasing. Color of me is very intentional. 

Color as Identification

Red means stop. Green means go. Yellow means cautious. Blue means boy. Pink means girl. So what happens if we change that, can our minds let go of what we haven been programmed to think?  RED, GREEN, BLUE, PURPLE, ORANGE Was that easy to process the first time? 

We identify green and red with Christmas, black and orange with Halloween. Our schools have spirit colors, our logos have colors that identify a brand. In the movies, the “bad guys” seem to always wear black and the “good guys” ride in on a white horse dressed in white. 

So as you pick out that tie, those shoes or even that umbrella, think about if you are being influenced or if are you in control of your color choices. Does you mood really affect your color choices? If you are blue, do you wear more blue or does blue calm you when you are stressed.  Do you make a purchase because of its color over the functionality and quality of the product? Are you drawn to certain colors to make you feel safe and warm? Do you like to stand out or blend in? What does your favorite color say about your personality?  Our visual sense and need for color has a very close interaction to our emotions.

Colorfully Yours,
Holly Johnson

Next Color Series post: The Psychology of Black


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