Do colors affect emotion?

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.


Works Cited

8 thoughts on “Do colors affect emotion?

  1. Julie Ramioulle

    Interestingly enough, I recently wrote a blog post analyzing studies about changes with the seasons changing our color perception. I’m predicting that our blog posts could more linked than we thought! Your correlation between color and emotion, and mine between seasons and color perception, could very well lead to a variety of follow up questions. For example, to question whether seasons affect mood could make color as causal factor, or vice versa. This longitudinal approached study explores seasonal effects entailing both of our studies researched.

  2. Jordan Charles Eisenstat

    I don’t think colors affect emotions, however I think because colors are associated with certain things in life, that has more of an effect on emotions. For example, when you see the color black, it is usually associated with something gloomy, or death. When you see a color, you associate it with something, and that something has an effect on your mood. here is a study done that shows how color association can vary in different parts of the world

  3. Kendra Hepler

    I am a big fan of interior design shows in HGTV, and so I often hear the designers talking about how color (walls, furniture, decorations, etc) affects the “mood” of a room. For example, yellow is a good color for your living or family room because it is associated with happiness, energy, fun, and humor. Red is a good color to paint your bedroom if you want that space to be associated with love and passion. Whenever the designers would talk about things like that, I would find myself thinking, “oh yeah, I definitely associate those things together,” but I never knew the reason why we connect feelings with specific colors. Is it an innate, natural instinct, or are we influenced by the way these colors have been portrayed in pop culture and advertising? I would like to see the mechanism that allows color to affect us. Interesting post!

  4. mcm5844

    I found this article post very interesting because I myself an controversial on the issue. Similarly to you my emotions are not typically altered by colors. Yet despite this, there has been proven correlation between emotion and color. This leads me to believe that there could be numerous third variable effecting this conclusion. Perhaps one of these is how we are taught about colors from a young age. For example, if you walk into an elementary classroom and there are different faces on the wall, the happy face is likely yellow, the sad face is likely blue, and the mad face is likely green. Another example is stoplights. As children we gain the basic knowledge that green means go, yellow means yield, and red means stop. This could lead to the emotion ties to green reflecting something positive, and red reflecting something negative. There are many other third variable that could also effect the correlation.
    Here is an article explain how the use of color effects learning behaviors in classrooms:

  5. pxw5127

    You did a very good job of explaining the hypotheses, and experiments. I definitely agree with you that colors affect emotions. The study that asked the participants to associate an emotion with the color should have assessed a broader group of people. The findings definitely could be changed if they included people from different race and culture. Like the one study said, I believe that generally, as humans, we all can associate a color with an emotion that is pretty similar. Color is a powerful technique that many artiists use to portray different emotions in their work. Check out this Website it shows famous works of art, and how the artists use different colors to get their point across. I really think that the words “positive” and “negative” or way to vague too, so I think that researchers should create a study that specifies these different emotions! Thanks for sharing this 🙂

  6. James Joseph Burke

    This article was incredibly interesting to read. I have always thought about whether or not colors could affect our emotions. There is an obvious connection between the two but I never realized that can color have a direct impact on our mood. I found it most interesting that green was received as the most positive of all the colors. I am curious as to see the possible reasons behind why each color elicited the response that it did. For example, is green thought of in a more positive light because it is the color of nature or money? I researched a little more and found out there is actually a list some people follow regarding their outfits and color. For example, you’re supposed to wear orange when you work out because it is a color that represents “stimulation” and “enthusiasm.”

  7. yvy5242

    This blog is really attractive. Yes, I do believe that colors can affect emotions. I have observed different occasions use different colors for a not short time. For example, the room I went to see the dentists was always painted with white or blue. Most fast food restaurant are filled with bright and yellow light. Because my intended major is Advertising, my mentor told that a particular class I will take in the future is called Chromatology. It focuses on colors’ influence on human’s mind. I think this topic is pretty interesting. People are easily affected by what they perceive through eyes.

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