Color Psychology

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 and is still used today as a holistic or alternative treatment.

In this treatment:

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

Modern Research on Color Psychology

Many modern psychologists view color therapy with skepticism and point out that the supposed effects of color are often grossly exaggerated. Colors also have different meanings in different cultures. Research has demonstrated in many cases that the mood-altering effects of color may only be temporary. A blue room may initially cause feelings of calm, but the effect dissipates after a short period of time.

Interest in the subject of color psychology is growing, but there remain a number of unanswered questions. How do color associations develop? How powerful is the influence of these associations on real-world behavior? Can color be used to increase worker productivity or workplace safety? What colors have an impact on consumer behavior? Do certain personality types prefer certain colors? As researchers continue to explore such questions, we may soon learn more about the impact that color has on human psychology.

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.

According to Psychologist World, chromology is a principle that is used when designing hotel rooms to food packaging to help make you feel a certain way. From creating energy to having calming properties, here are five colors and how they may affect your brain…

1. Pink

Pink is often a color that is tied to femininity, but it also has a calming effect on people. In fact, a 2013 article in The Telegraph (UK) details a project in Switzerland to paint prison cells pink. The article notes that the color pink can reduce anger in inmates in as little as 15-minutes.

In another experiment using color, University of Iowa football coach, Hayden Fry, had the visiting team’s locker room painted pink, intended to calm the opposing players and extinguish their fighting spirit. The locker room has since caused controversy, however it may not be a coincidence that Fry is one of the most successful university coaches of his time.


2. Red

While pink is actually a shade of red, the color red can have the opposite effect on your physiology than pink. Red radiates energy and can actually increase your pulse, according to experts. In fact, the BBC published a report in 2013, which found boxers and martial artists wearing red during the 2004 Olympics had a 5-percent better chance of winning their matches.

Red can also be used in your home to set the mood. For example, you may want to consider red for your living room, as it can boost social energy, according to Country Living magazine. Even a small amount of red in a room can have this effect, according to the magazine.


3. Yellow

Psychologists believe the color yellow can actually stimulate mental activity, and Psychologist Worldnotes that students taking tests in yellow rooms actually fare significantly better than in rooms of other colors—10- to 15-percent better, to be more specific. On the other hand, the same source notes that yellow can cause newborns to cry longer, and it can also have adverse effects on residents in nursing homes.

An article in the BMC Medical Research Methodology journal claims that yellow is the most “drawn to” color by research subjects, and best represents a “normal” mood by those in a study without anxiety or depression (although it notes that different shades of yellow have different connotations).


4. Blue

Blue is often associated with calm, and is one of the most popular colors because of it—think ocean waves and a cloudless sky. This is why many interior decorators recommend blue (cool) tones in the bedroom, because it’s a good color to see first thing in the morning, and can help create a sense of calm before bedtime as well.

A 2012 Huffington Post article also notes that blue is a great wardrobe color choice—and that men should wear blue on a first date as it creates a “stable” feeling. The calming qualities of blue will also help the date feel more relaxed, when anxiety can run high. Ancient cultures even used “chromotherapy” to treat illnesses, and blue was often used to soothe pain, according to an article from the National Centre for Biotechnology Information.


5. Green

Green is also often associated with feelings of calm, and is also easy on the eyes as opposed to colors like yellow. If you’re spending a lot of time in front a computer during the day, some experts recommend using green text to extend your productivity and avoid visual eye fatigue. However, make sure your text has significant contrast from the background, as your eyes have to work harder to distinguish darker letters on a dark background (contrast is key!).

Many home decorators will tell you that vibrant greens remind of us nature, and therefore create a feeling of the outdoors while sitting comfortably in your living room. Science of People research lab recommends painting your office green (or blue), because researchers have found those colors increase efficiency and mood (note that green was also associated with the lure of money).