Color symbolism and psychology

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search
For the physiological perception of color, see color and color vision.

In art and anthropology, color symbolism refers to the use of color as a symbol throughout culture. Color psychology refers to investigating the effect of color on human behavior and feeling, distinct from phototherapy (the use of ultraviolet light to cure infantile jaundice).

Color symbolism and color psychology are culturally constructed linkages that vary with time, place, and culture. In fact one color may perform very different symbolic or psychological functions at the same place. Color symbolism is a contentious area of study dependent upon a large body of anecdotal evidence but not supported by data from well designed scientific studies.

Red is often used in North America to indicate stop, as with a stop sign, or danger, as with a warning light. At the same time red symbolizes love, as with Valentine's Day. A person not familiar with the cultural coding of red in North America could, theoretically, confuse the symbolism of red and mistake a red Valentine's Day heart for a warning. Cross-cultural diversity is found in the symbolism of white, which historically has signified purity, virginity, or death (as in Herman Melville's Moby Dick). In North America it is the color worn at weddings. At certain periods in history it was the color worn at funerals in parts of Japan and China.


[edit] Common connotations

[edit] Gray

• Gray, somewhere between white (good) and black (evil), is a blasé color.

Elegance, humility, respect, reverence, stability, subtlety, wisdom, old age, boredom, decay, decrepitude, dullness, pollution, urban sprawl, strong emotions, balance, neutrality, mourning, formality, March.

[edit] White

• White is the color (or lack thereof) that represents purity, neutrality, sterility and youth.

• Often associated with white is cleanliness or sterility. Doctors wear white to convey these attributes of white[citation needed]

• White is also associated with neutrality—hence a white flag for surrender. White is a neutral color that will continue to be the preferred backdrop on websites and the “color” behind the color.[1]

Light, reverence, purity, truth, snow, peace, innocence, cleanliness, simplicity, security, humility, sterility, winter, coldness, surrender, fearfulness, unimaginative, air, death (Eastern cultures), life, marriage (Western cultures), hope, bland, empty(interior), January (Winter).

[edit] Black

• Black is a multi-dimensional color that can mean classic or new.

• It has an ominous characteristic, symbolizing death. Particularly Western cultures use black for funerals.

• It has an air of intelligence (graduation robes), marked with rebellion (the bad guy), shrouded in mystery (space).

Word Values Absence, modernity, power, sophistication, formality, elegance, wealth, mystery, style, evil, death (Western cultures), fear, seriousness, conventionality, rebellion, anarchism, unity, sorrow, professionalism's, slimming quality (fashion).

[edit] Red

• It is believed that red makes the heart beat faster.

• Red strikes a chord with more cultures than many other colors because of its intensity, passion and invocation of an inherent physiological response.

• Red is the color of celebration and good luck (China), purity and integrity (India), mourning (South Africa) and communism.

• Red, when used with a wide brush, typically makes whatever it’s painted on look larger - whether it’s a torso or wingback chair.

• Red is bold and audacious so it usually dilutes the colors around it. For this reason it’s used to accent and highlight objects of importance.

• Studies show that red can have a physical effect, increasing the rate of respiration and raising blood pressure. Red is also said to make people hungry (McDonald's, Burgerville, corner cafés). The red ruby is the traditional 40th wedding anniversary gift. Red is also the color of the devil in modern Western culture.

Passion, strength, energy, fire, love, romance, excitement, speed, heat, arrogance, ambition, leadership, masculinity, power, danger, gaudiness, blood, war, anger, revolution, radicalism, socialism, communism, aggression, respect, martyrs, the Holy Spirit, conservatism (U.S. politics), wealth (China), marriage (India).

[edit] Blue

• The best color to wear to an interview is blue. Blue is non-threatening, yet confident and stable.

• Many police uniforms are blue because the color says confidence and security, while being non-threatening.

• As we aim to maximize our every minute, blue will become a more popular color because it enhances productivity. Weightlifters have proven to lift heavier weights in blue rooms.

• With the good there’s the bad. Blue can also signify depression. “You’ve got the blues” is a nod to this attribute.

Seas, men, productive (interior) skies, peace, unity, harmony, tranquility, calmness, trust, coolness, confidence, conservatism, water, ice, loyalty, dependability, cleanliness, technology, winter, depression, coldness, idealism, air, wisdom, royalty, nobility, Earth (planet), Virgo (light blue), Pisces (pale blue) and Aquarius (dark blue) (star sign), strength, steadfastness, light, friendliness, peace, mourning (Iran)[citation needed], truthfulness, love, liberalism (U.S. politics), conservatism (UK & European politics). In many diverse cultures blue is significant in religious beliefs, believed to keep the bad spirits, stupidity, and misfortune away.

[edit] Green

• Green will continue its rise in eco-conscious businesses. Green says nature as well as initiative.

• It is a color that soothes the eyes and produces a calming effect when seen; likely due to the association with greenery of nature.

• It’s also the color of spring, a time of rebirth and renewal. For companies providing a pampered escape, green is a color that will signify rejuvenation and energy for your brand.

Great intelligence, nature, spring, fertility, youth, environment, wealth, money (US), good luck, vigor, generosity, go, grass, aggression, coldness, jealousy, disgrace (China), illness, greed, Marijuana and drug culture,corruption (North Africa), life eternal, air, earth (classical element), sincerity, Cancer (bright green, star sign), renewal, natural abundance, growth, health, August, balance, harmony, stability, calming, creative intelligence, Islam, the ordinary.

During the Middle Ages, both green and yellow were used to symbolize the devil. Green is believed to be the luckiest of colors in some western countries including, Britain, Ireland, and the U.S.,hope,spirit,life,precious,gem,gracious. While an association with green and forward motion or action may seem, at first blush, to make sense because of its association in the western world with the "go" traffic light, this association is not innate (green being a calming or soothing color) and is as a result of acculturation. Green for traffic signals was selected due to its ability to be seen well over distances and its high contrast with the colors used for stop (red) and caution (yellow).

[edit] Yellow

• Yellow echoes the duality nature of red. Though yellow evokes feelings of happiness, when we are confronted with too much yellow, we become annoyed or angered.

Sunlight, joy, happiness, earth, optimism, intelligence, idealism, wealth (gold), summer, hope, air, liberalism, cowardice, illness (quarantine), fear, sinestro, hazards, dishonesty, avarice, weakness, greed, femininity, gladness, sociability, summer, friendship, Gemini, Taurus, Leo (golden yellow, star signs), April, September, deceit, hazard signs, Jews (yellow star patches), death (Middle Ages), mourning (as in Egypt and Frank Herbert's Dune), courage (Japan), God (gold). Yellow ribbons were worn during times of warfare as a sign of hope as women waited for their men to return. During the Middle Ages, both green and yellow were used to symbolize the devil.

[edit] Purple

• Thailand considers purple to be the color of mourning. Not so in western cultures. Quite the opposite in fact. Purple is the color of royalty and wisdom. The Purple Heart, a high military honor for those wounded or killed in enemy combat with America, embodies both purple attributes.

Nobility, envy, Sensuality, spirituality, creativity, wealth, royalty, ceremony, mystery, wisdom, enlightenment, arrogance, flamboyance, gaudiness, mourning, exaggeration, profanity, bisexuality, confusion, pride, Scorpio (violet, star sign), May, November, riches, romanticism (light purple), delicacy (light purple), penance. Purple is the color of mourning for widows in Thailand, favorite color of Egypt's Cleopatra, and the purple heart is given to soldiers who have been wounded during warfare.

[edit] Orange

• Orange is energy, enthusiasm, get-it-done and balance.

Hinduism, Buddhism, happiness energy, balance, heat, fire, enthusiasm, flamboyance, playfulness, aggression, arrogance, gaudiness, overemotion, warning, danger, autumn, desire, Sagittarius (star sign), September. Orange has less intensity or aggression than red and is calmed by the cheerfulness of yellow.
Orange is the Royal family of the Netherlands. As such in the Netherlands Orange symbolises royalty and as William of Orange was a Calvinist orange symbolizes protestantism particularly in Ireland (Orange Order).

[edit] Brown

• It’s also the color of dirt, giving it an earthy, environmental quality popularly coupled with green.

• Shades of brown represent skin tones and produce a comforting feeling

Calm, boldness, depth, natural organisms, nature, richness, rusticism, stability, tradition, anachronism, fascism, boorishness, dirt, feces, dullness, filth, heaviness, poverty, roughness, earth (classical element), October, Capricorn, Scorpio (reddish brown, star signs), down-to-earth. Brown can stimulate the appetite, wholesomeness, steadfastness, simplicity, friendliness, and dependability.

[edit] Pink

• Pink, a sister of red, but could not be more different than if they were complementary.

• Pink is a tranquilizing color. Oftentimes, prisons will paint the cells of their most dangerous residents the color pink.

• Pink symbolizes innocence and child-like flirtatiousness.

Spring, gratitude, appreciation, admiration, sympathy, femininity, health, love, romance, June, marriage, joy.

[edit] Criticism

Most evidence suggests the lack of a single, universal psychological reaction to a particular color. For example, death is symbolized by black in most Western cultures and by white in many Eastern cultures. Even members of the same culture from different age groups can act differently. Referencing colors with emotions is developed by every individual when they feel an emotion and then see a color repeated during this time. After the connection is ingrained, the referencing can go both ways.

[edit] Reasons for color association

Black is often seen as the 'color' of death in Western culture. Black represents darkness and the unknown, and death is associated with the extinguishing of light. The association of white with death in Eastern cultures could come from the white cloth used to enshroud corpses (as in Egyptian mummies), the pale skin of a dead person, or the stark whiteness of bones and skeletons. Many Eastern cultures also view death as the passage into a higher state of being (Buddhism, Hinduism), and thus could view white as a positive color association for death. Red is often a color representing violence, war, aggression, or passion; most likely because red is the color of fire and human blood.

[edit] Psychology

Color psychology is an immature field of study viewed dubiously by mainstream psychologists and therefore qualifies as "alternative medicine". Critics view it as an overstatement of what can be justified by research, and point out that different cultures have completely different interpretations of color.

Practitioners of color psychology, sometimes called color consultants, claim there are a number of reactions to color which seem to be noted in most persons. They also note that common physiological effects often accompany the psychological effects.

Color consultants claim hues in the red area of color are typically viewed as "warm" while those in the blue and green range are typically viewed as "cool". Reds are also viewed as active and exciting, while the blues and greens are viewed as soothing and passive. Physiological tests have revealed similar responses. It is claimed that red hues increase bodily tension and stimulate the autonomic nervous system, while "cool" hues release tension. Black is considered unique, as it can be either evil or malevolent, yet it also stands for elitism and style. White is associated with purity, whereas grey is viewed as dull or boring (or sophisticated and elegant).

Color consultants also point to an increasing number of studies linking colors to specific responses. One study found that weight-lifters have more powerful performances in blue rooms. Another study found that babies cry more frequently in yellow rooms. Yet another (by Dr. Alexander Schauss, Ph.D., of the American Institute for Biosocial Research, cited on Color Matters: pink) used Baker-Miller Pink("drunk tank pink") or ("Pepto-Bismol pink") to calm prisoners. Color consultants believe that the colors used in the design of environment can have a significant impact on the emotions and performance of people within that environment.

In one system, red is considered to motivate action, orange and purple are related to spirituality, yellow cheers, green creates coziness and warmth, blue relaxes, and white is associated with either purity or death.

Although color psychology is a relatively new area of scientific research, ancient civilizations believed in the influence of color on humans. The ancient Chinese, Egyptians, and Indians believed in chromotherapy, or healing with colors.

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

[edit] References

  1. ^ Sparxoo "Color of Economy"
Personal tools