Color is much more than a bundle of hues, pigments and shades. It’s not only how we see the world, it’s how we feel about the world around us. Whether you know it or not, your mind associates different emotions and thoughts with every color you see. That means every day – every color you see – your mind is taking in all the feels, probably without you even being aware of it.
The Color Trifecta
Color has a special impact on the brain, which leads to you landing somewhere on the extensive feeling spectrum. Whether you’re feeling anxious, happy, sad, calm or angry, color impacts our physiology in three main ways:
Psychologically – where we base color on personal experiences
Symbolically – where we associate colors with a specific object (the sky is blue)
Culturally – where society has defined how we are supposed to view colors (black at a funeral)
A Rainbow of Feeling
So, how exactly does your brain react to specific colors? See for yourself.
The inclusion of all colors, white brings to mind thoughts of innocence, perfection, simplicity and cleanliness. It’s a color that promotes feelings of safety, which is probably the opposite of how most people wearing white feel while they’re eating. We’ve all been there. It evokes emotions of purity which make it a popular color for healthcare and charitable organizations.
Purple is a vibrant color shadowed in mystery. It combines the energy of red with the calmness of blue making it a color that invokes a magnitude of feelings, such as nobility, extravagance, wisdom, creativity, magic, elegance and gloom. A survey among children showed that 75 percent of kids prefer purple to all other colors, a preference that as an adult diminishes. Lavender, a lighter shade of purple, tends to be used in marketing as a color aimed at women.
Blue is the universal color for calmness. It’s the color of the sea and the sky, automatically giving it sensations of peace and relaxation. Why do you think so many bathrooms are painted blue? Its strong yet tranquil nature provides a juxtaposition as the color is often associated with masculinity as well as feelings of docility.
Green is synonymous with nature and spring. It’s a color that brings to mind positive feelings of growth, intellect and health, while at the same time negative aspects like sickness, greed and jealousy.
Orange is another passion color that combines the energy of red with the joy of yellow. In fact, it’s been studied that orange can actually help increase oxygen supply to the brain, producing an invigorating effect. Orange has often been linked to feelings of desire, arousal, joy and thirst – even affordability, as far as marketing is concerned.
Brown, like green, symbolizes nature and earth. As a result, the color spurs feelings of stability, structure and support. Found most commonly in wood and leather, brown provides a warming effect that draws nods to friendliness and reliability.
Red is the color of passion that falls on both ends of the feeling spectrum. It signifies oxymoronic feelings of both love, and in equal contrast, war. It’s the an emotionally charged and highly visible color that has stopping power. Duh, right? Red has also been associated with appetite, which is why lots of restaurants use it in their décor schemes.
Black is actually the absence of color, so it doesn’t mean anything. Just kidding. Across most cultures, black signifies positive vibes like formality and strength as well as more morbid feelings like evil, depression and death. Too much black is often viewed negatively, but used in moderation it can create an elegant contrast.
Yellow signifies feelings of hope and happiness, as well freshness. Lemon Pine-Sol® anyone? It’s the color of sunshine, which instantly provides a warm feeling. It’s also an attention-grabbing color, which is why taxi cabs are often yellow. Marketers tend to use it as an accent color to highlight important aspects of their products. Which is important, because while yellow is associated with optimism, too much yellow is often seen as disturbing. And dull yellow can suggest thoughts of sickness or decay.
A Colorful Memory
Would you believe that people recall color to a significantly higher degree than words or objects? It’s true. It may sound elementary but we associate memories with color better than shapes and language. Blame it on the right hemisphere of your brain if you want, but that’s where visualization, imagery and emotion all tend to stem from. So the next time you want to remember something, try color coding – it may help.
The Ultimate Sense
As if color wasn’t already visually stimulating enough, did you know some people can actually hear, feel, smell and taste color? It’s a rare neurological condition called synesthesia, in which two or more of the senses entwine. Everything from numbers and letters to days and months are associated to colors.