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Behind color psychology is the idea that there is a connection between color and emotion, and that viewing different colors can have an impact on behavior. People’s reaction to color isn’t universal. It changes based on cultural differences, an individual’s color perception and personal experiences. For example, if you had to take a purple medicine as a child that tasted terrible, purple wouldn’t evoke very positive emotions in you even though color psychology says it should. There also is a range of tone in each color. A warm red might evoke a strong emotion while a cool red with blue tones in it could bring calm. What follows are descriptions of the general emotions different colors bring forth.
Red is a bold color that’s connected to strong emotions. It’s associated with love and desire, but also with danger, anger and violence. It’s attention grabbing and conveys a sense of energy and youth. It’s said to give confidence to the shy and act as a mood booster. This is an example of a color that evokes different emotions in different cultures. In China, red is seen as a lucky color, so it can bring forth positive emotions rather than negative ones.
Orange is a positive and cheerful color that exudes a feeling of freshness, like the fruit that shares its name. It also can make people feel courageous and boost their sense of vitality. Some orange tones, however, can give warning, which is why it’s used for traffic cones.
Yellow is another attention-grabbing color, which is why it’s used as a warning color, both by people and by nature. It also has a nearly universal positive connotation, associated with happiness, hope and sunshiney warmth. Yellow is said to be the color of creativity and new ideas. Perhaps it’s no accident that Post-it notes are traditionally yellow.
Green symbolizes stability and allows people to rest. Lighter greens remind people of nature and growth, while darker greens are related to wealth and prestige.
The body’s reaction to blue is exactly the opposite of its reaction to red. While red can drive up someone’s heart rate, potentially flooding them with adrenaline, blue can slow the heart rate. It is a calming color that can reduce feelings of tension and fear while increasing feelings of serenity. It also can evoke feelings of sadness — blue can make you feel a little blue.
Purple is the color of imagination, and being around it can boost creativity. It also allows people to go deep and be tranquil and introspective. It is the perfect combination of red’s energetic energy and blue’s ability to calm.
Your surroundings can influence your emotions and state of being, and colors should be considered when choosing paint colors and art for your walls. And if this all seems like psychobabble, consider the 1986 vandalism of the painting Who’s Afraid of Red Yellow and Blue III. Gerard Jan Van Bladeren, a painter, attacked the canvas with a box cutter in what he said was a defense of artistic values. But the 8 foot by 18 foot abstract painting is mostly red — perhaps the color was partly to blame for Bladeren’s angry outburst.
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