Why are bedrooms usually painted blue or white, but rarely red? Why different people prefer different colors to show their personality? Can color manipulate people’s emotions? These are all questions that I have been concerning and want to find out. The use of color seem to have a lot of potential. Artists can use different colors to express different intentions and businessmen can attract more customers with more proper color design. Back to the question, do colors affect emotions? Does this kind of influence vary from person to person?
An experiment done by Professor Helen H. Epps from The University of Georgia provides some information about the correlation between color and emotion. Ninety-eight volunteered college students were picked out to do the experiment. Several colors were chosen, including red, yellow, green, blue, purple, yellow-red, green-yellow, blue-green, purple blue, red-purple, and some achromatic colors, including white, black and middle grey. Each participant need to answer the same two question when each color is shown to them: “What emotional response do you associate with this color?” and “Why do you feel this way?”. After gathering the answers, the result was that 80% of the response show positive reaction to principal colors (colors that are not white, black and grey), and 68.4% of the response show negative reaction to achromatic colors.
According to the table below, green has the most positive feedbacks, and most principal hues has more positive responses than negative responses. The achromatic colors, especially gray and black, on the other hand, does not have much positive responses.
The conclusion that I can draw from the experiment result is limited because the result is too general. There are many kinds of positive emotions and different positive emotions can have a big difference. For example, green may be the color of being peaceful (not experiment based, just an example), and red may be the color of being zealous. Both of the emotions are positive, but the colors that represent each emotion can not be switched. I want to feel peaceful instead of zealous when I am trying to go to sleep. Positive is a word that is too general and can hardly give me the result that I want.
Despite of the fact that only limited information is shown in the test, hypothesis can still be drawn from the experiment. Firstly, there is definitely a correlation between emotions and colors, because there is an obvious difference in responses to different colors. Principle hues, in this experiment, are considered to show mostly positive responses. Gray, black, and surprisingly green-yellow are considered to show mostly negative responses. These information can be used by designers – if they want to pass a positive emotion, use principle colors, and if they want to pass a negative emotion, use black or grey, and try some green-yellow as well.
The result of the experiment, in fact, can be hardly trusted not only because the sample size is not big enough and the result is not specific enough, but also because there are so many factors that can change the final outcomes. For example, different culture shows different tendencies to different colors. The current emotion of a person can also affect his or her interpretation of a color.
Another research named Analysis of Cross Culture Color Emotion, demonstrated how cultural differences affect the result of color-emotion correlation. They cross examined visual assessment from seven regions across the world, and the result show that people from different cultures have very similar reactions to colors. This experiment is relatively more reliable, because seven separate tests were conducted to find the result.
In conclusion, the experiment that is shown in this article supports the hypothesis that colors affect emotions. I tend to believe in the result because of influence of common sense. Personally I do experience emotion change when seeing different colors. However, the experiment failed to show what emotion each color represents, which is a more specific, probably personally based question.