Thanks to studies conducted with the use of advanced technology, we now know that color affects brain waves, the autonomic nervous system and hormonal activity and stimulates various emotions. In other words, we react both physiologically and psychologically to color. This is called the Psychology of Color.
When we think of color, we think of the color in it’s most obvious state: red, orange, yellow, green… you get the picture. We use color as way to label and differentiate between things.
- She’s wearing a blue shirt.
- He drives a black pick up truck.
- The bus is yellow.
But unless you’ve studied marketing or color, you may not know of the significance of color. McDonald’s didn’t choose red and yellow because the founders just happened to love those colors. No, they were chosen because of the Psychology of Color. The color red increases metabolism and hunger while yellow stimulates your energy level. Perfect for little ones, don’t ya think? It was a strategy. A very well thought out strategy. With this in mind, color has been studied in great depth and discovered that it plays an integral role not just in marketing and business but in life. In fact, the Psychology of Color is booming with popularity.
Let’s take a look at each color and the effect it has on our physical, emotional and mental well being.
Red evokes the most emotional response of all the colors. It also is the most contradicting color as red symbolizes anger, power, love, and passion. Red has been known to elevate blood pressure, enhanced metabolism, increase your heart rate, respiration rate as well as circulation. A study on color also found that red increases anxiety levels.
Orange calls to mind feelings of excitement, enthusiasm, and warmth. Therefore, orange has been shown to increase energy levels, stimulates the appetite, stimulates the thyroid to boost metabolism, increases oxygen supply to the brain, lowers your inhibitions and increases creativity. f a room is painted orange, we are more likely to assume the temperature is higher than it actually is. Warmth tends to relax our muscles, and in a quantitative study in 1979, researchers found that orange has an “endocrine-based weakening effect on muscle functioning,” effectively relaxing us in ways we can directly measure.
Yellow is the color that captures our attention more than any other color. It increases our mental activity, increases muscle energy, helps activate the memory, encourages communication, enhances vision, build confidence and stimulates the nervous system.
Perhaps because green is so heavily associated with nature, it is often described as a refreshing and tranquil color. Green can improve reading ability, stimulate of your pituitary gland, decrease in allergy symptoms, improve creativity, relaxes your muscles and dilate your blood vessels. Psychologists also found that green is associated with complex thinking and higher-level thought as well as relaxation, inward focus, and calm actions.
Blue is a fan favorite but can be a contradictory color in it’s meaning. Blue represents serenity as in the color of a body of a water but can also symbolize feeling “blue” (sadness). Blue has been known to lower your pulse rate, respirations and body temperature as well as enhance memory and even kill bacteria. Blue light leads to clearer thoughts so much so that blue lights were used in several studies and have been proven to decrease the rates of suicide and violent crimes.
People often describe purple as mysterious, spiritual, and imaginative. This color has significant meaning across different cultures in both positive and negative ways. The use of purple in a space can lead to introspection and focused insight, fosters creativity by awakening our senses, creates a harmonious balance of awareness and peace, increases nurturing tendencies and sensitivity as well as lowers blood pressure and heart rate.
The color black relates to the hidden, the secretive and the unknown, and as a result it creates an air of mystery. Black has been shown to lower your energy and blood pressure but can either stimulate or depress your emotional state. Black can also trigger aggression.
White is another color that has strong cultural references in both positive and negative ways. In Western Culture, white symbolizes innocence, peacefulness and cleanliness. This color has been proven to help our minds to focus, increase memory retention rates, helps us be more organized, increases serotonin levels and reduce blood pressure for a calming effect. Spaces that are monochromatically white tend to hold our attention span for a shorter time than colorful areas. This is why it’s recommended for retail store to use color (and why I recommend it in our homes!).
With the foundation of these key colors, you can make inferences on other colors. Pink for example is a combination of red and white. Gray is a combination of black and white. Turquoise is combination of green and blue. Now you understand how the Psychology of Color plays an integral role in Interior Design!
Keep this color guide handy the next time you have to select a paint color!