The Psychology of Colors

Sarah Villa

Do you automatically assume your day will be glum when you see that the sky is grey? Do you feel more confident and bold when you wear that shade of red lipstick? Every person has their interpretations and perceptions regarding almost everything in our lives, which is why it is surprising that so many people have the same psychological view tied to colors. The colors surrounding us may directly affect the way we feel on a day-to-day basis, which creates strong correlations between colors and emotions. We find colors in poems, phrases, and songs, and they are often tied to an emotional feeling or expression.

“Blue World,” by Mac Miller, expresses the depressing environment of the world we live in, with a sense of inescapable “blue” sadness. In the song “Red,” Taylor Swift associates colors to her feelings regarding a relationship, with red being love, loneliness as grey, and sadness as blue. In the song “Yellow,” by Coldplay, the illustration of a beautiful and radiant person is described through the color yellow. These artists’ similar perceptions about colors to feelings are relatively universal, although we may not even realize how similar society perceives them to be.

So, what is the connection in our brains when our eyes absorb these colors and transform our emotions according to what we see? Scientists have uncovered several factors as to why this may be occurring. The most significant aspect of color psychology relates to the tone of the color we see. For example, colors with bright tones like yellow, orange, pink, and pastels are often associated with feelings of happiness and joy. For example, the human brain will automatically perceive feelings of joy from brighter and lighter colors. Colors with dark and muted tones produce feelings of sadness, which is why you may relate to the phrase of feeling “blue” or why you may see gray as a lifeless emotion. For the days when you’re feeling pretty chill, blue, beige, and green will satisfy your visual palette. These cool-toned colors have a relaxing effect on your brain with their simplicity and delicate appearance. On the contrary, seeing colors like bright red, bright purple, and neon green will excite and energize you. These colors may have a powerful, sometimes even irritating, effect on your emotions.

Color tones are not the only connection between your feelings and your visual palette. Cultural background can also be tied to your emotional association with colors. For example, the depressing and heavy mood of funerals may stem from the fact that many cultures wear black attire as a sense of mourning. For people in East Asia, this may differ because their color of mourning is white. A study from the USA, Russia, Mexico, Poland, and Germany showed that people associate the color red with anger as well as strength and power. However, Poles associated the color purple with anger and jealousy, while Germans associated the color yellow with anger. Differences on an international scale about humans and their color perceptions may be tied to cultural backgrounds and differences.

Age represents an additional factor of color perception. Children may typically favor brightly toned colors, such as yellow, due to its connotations of happiness. Studies have shown that as humans age, they tend to prefer cooler toned colors like blues and greens, possibly due to the sense of serenity these colors emit.

Marketing agencies are heavily reliant on colors to attract consumers and produce the most pleasing aesthetic for people. Though everyone has varying perceptions of colors, marketers work to appeal to the target audience through bright colors that may capture attention or soothing colors that do not overwhelm.

Maybe the next time you experience a grey, rainy day in which you feel unmotivated, you will understand why you feel this way. The next time you get to soak up the yellow rays of the summer sun, you will recognize the feeling of internal joy. And when you want to feel daring and confident, wear that red lipstick and red dress and see how it changes your mood. Colors seem to be an incredibly unrecognized science in our world, but they might have the greatest effect on our emotions.