The Secrets of Color Psychology
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The Secrets of Color Psychology

By Matthew Hong

For a long time, scientists have studied how different colors influence our emotions and behavior, a field now known as color psychology. Although still shrouded in mystery, some research has demonstrated the potential benefits that color psychology could have on our well-being.

The field of color psychology began in 1810 when German playwright and scientist Johann Wolfgang von Goethe published a novel exploring how colors can elicit specific emotions. In the early twentieth century, Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung developed art therapy to help patients recover from trauma or distress by allowing them to express themselves through particular colors and images. Building on these ideas, scientists have identified specific universal color-emotion associations, such as red and passion, yellow and joy, and white and indifference. 

The use of color as an alternative for medicine, also known as chromotherapy or color therapy, is currently being considered by scientists as a possible approach to treatment. Chromotherapy lacks scientific evidence, but some argue that it can effectively promote psychological health and combat feelings of fatigue, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress. These proponents contend that color is an important stimulant for the pituitary gland, which is responsible for regulating body temperature, hormone levels, metabolism, and sleep patterns. If this is true, then perhaps different colors could affect our moods and bodily functions. 

Researchers at the University of Kentucky conducted several experiments to test how colors can influence our emotions. In one experiment, researchers found that people in a room filled with red light tended to overestimate the time it would take to complete a task, whereas people in a room filled with green or blue light tended to underestimate the time it would take. London’s Blackfriars Bridge, a gloomy black structure throughout the Middle Ages, was infamous for its record number of suicides until it was painted bright green. 

Although attempts to scientifically establish how color affects the mind and body have not been conclusive, the possibilities seem to be endless!


References

Adler, L. (n.d.). Responding to Color. University of Kentucky. 

https://fcs-hes.ca.uky.edu/sites/fcs-hes.ca.uky.edu/files/hf-lra.151.pdf

Cherry, K. (2005, November 23). Color psychology: Does it affect how you feel? Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/color-psychology-2795824

Envision color: Activity patterns in the brain are specific to the color you see. (2020, November 16). National Institutes of Health (NIH). https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/envision-color-activity-patterns-brain-are-specific-color-you-see

How colors affect brain functioning. (n.d.). Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/how-my-brain-works/202301/how-colors-affect-brain-functioning

Schwertly, S. S. (n.d.). The history of color psychology. Ethos3. https://ethos3.com/the-history-of-color-psychology/ 

Masterclass. (2021, August 18). Psychology of color explained: What is color psychology? . MasterClass. https://www.masterclass.com/articles/psychology-of-color-explained 

Azeemi, S. T., & Raza, S. M. (2005). A critical analysis of chromotherapy and its scientific evolution. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM, 2(4), 481–488. https://doi.org/10.1093/ecam/neh137 

Kluth, L. (2023). Color Psychology Illustration.