Can Color Affect Your Mood?

Think of your favorite space, that place that can put you into a relaxed zen like state (sipping Mai Tais on a beach in the Caribbean doesn’t count!). Now think about a space that you feel uncomfortable or anxious in. What is the dominant color in each of these spaces? Is it possible that your emotional state could be a direct result of the color of your surroundings? Artists and Interior Designers certainly believe that color can dramatically affect moods, feelings and emotions. Certain colors are often used by designers to create feelings of coziness or spaciousness. Some even say that color can actually change how a person perceives temperature. Warm colors such a red, orange and yellow will make an inhabitant feel warmer in a space, while cool colors such as blue, green and light purple will cause people to estimate a lower ambient temperature. Maybe it is with good reason that you are in such a state of relaxation when staring out over the vast blue ocean off of white sandy beaches! If this theory of color psychology is really true, the paint you select for your office walls could have a direct effect on the employees occupying that space, positive or negative.

According to Wikipedia, the general model of color psychology relies on six basic principles:

1.    Color can carry specific meaning.

2.    Color meaning is either based in learned meaning or biologically innate meaning.

3.    The perception of a color causes evaluation automatically by the person perceiving.

4.    The evaluation process forces color motivated behavior.

5.    Color usually exerts its influence automatically.

6.    Color meaning and effect has to do with context as well.

Although this hot topic is widely discussed and readily applied in the art and design field, much of the evidence in this emerging area is anecdotal at best. Researchers have made a few important discoveries and observations about the psychology of color, but have also noted that feelings about color are often deeply and personally rooted in individual experience and culture. As for Americans favorites, blue was the top choice at 35%, followed by green (16%), purple (10%) and red (9%).

Our favorite and least favorite colors are often based on associations with specific memories or experiences which override the expected psychological responses they often carry. Despite these exceptions, there are still some basic generalities about the emotional and behavioral responses to certain colors. Warm colors often evoke emotions ranging from feelings of warmth and comfort to feelings of anger and hostility. On the other hand, cool colors are often described as calming, but for some can call to mind feelings of sadness or indifference. Feelings about color don’t just apply to interiors; have you ever found yourself dressing to fit your mood? In the anticipation of spring do you pull those bright colors from the closet, hoping to inspire your mood and the weather to fast forward you into summer?

Red: Warmth, energy, excitement, strength, anger

Blue: Serene, cool, calm, reflection, unfriendly, sadness

Yellow: Optimism, joy, confidence, irrational, fearful, anxious

Green: Harmony, restoration, peace, blandness, stagnation

Violet: Vision, meditative, luxury, introversion, decadence

Orange: Security, fun, aggressive, frustration, immaturity

Pink: Femininity, nurturing, weakness, inhibition

Grey: Neutrality, dampness, depression

Black: Sophistication, security, powerful, oppressive, menace

White: Sterile, pure, clean, unfriendly

Brown: Warm, earthy, reliable, heavy

So what’s the bottom line? Experts have found that while color can have an influence on how we feel and act, these effects are subject to personal, cultural, and situational factors. More scientific research is needed to gain a better understanding of color psychology.

While perceptions of color are somewhat subjective, you can feel confident that many color effects have universal meaning. Keep this in mind when considering what color best suits your space and how you want its inhabitants to feel and perform. Although the color of your walls can’t perform miracles, it can certainly get you headed in the right direction.

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