“Do colors really have powers”

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Color is a powerful communication tool and can be used to signal action, influence mood, and even influence physiological reactions.

We should study about how colors affect human behavior, mood, or physiological processes. In the world of marketing, design and architecture, theories surrounding color psychology are heavily applied. Companies choose colors to inspire their buyers to buy their products and increase awareness of the brand. Even colors were used for treating various diseases in color therapy techniques. Colors are playing huge role in our day today life.

The Rose of Temperaments

In 1798/9, Goethe and Schiller created this colour wheel concerning the “allegoric, symbolic, mystic usage of colour”. In his notes, he assigns human characteristics to each colour. He denotes positivity with the warm colours on the right side, and on the left, with negativity. Newton decided only spectral colors could count as fundamental. But Goethe approach allowed him to recognize the essential role of “(nonspectral) magenta in a complete color circle, a role that it still has in all modern colour systems.”

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The Rose of Temperaments

From the 12 colors, he grouped them into 4 temperaments: sanguine, melancholic, choleric and phlegmatic. The sanguine and melancholic form of humors is given to feeling, and the choleric and phlegmatic are the humors of activity. Choleric (hero’s and adventurers) are yellow, red, and orange. Phlegmatic is given to historians, teachers and public speakers, which are given the colors cyan, blue and violet. When we think of royalty and historians we can usually see them in purple and reds- something of high importance. Sanguine, lovers and poets is given the colors yellow, green and cyan. And lastly, melancholic (rules and philosophers) was given violet, magenta, and red. As well, we think of philosophers as very knowledgeable and educated, which we use color association with red and violet to represent this.[1]

How We See Color

Currently, through our eyes we don’t see colors. With our eyes, we see shades. Our eyes are essential for the perception and reaction to light, but the visual core of the brain in the occipital lobes integrates visual input with colors. The colors we see are determined by the wavelength of light that is reflected. Our eyes have three types of cones: blue, green, and red. The red cones are most sensitive to red wavelengths, blue cones to blue wavelengths, and green cones to green wavelengths.[2] When a color is reflected from an object, the light wavelength hits the eyes and cones send signals to the visual cortex of the brain for processing. Our brain associates the wavelength with a color. Although our eyes have three cone types, the different wavelengths of light detected by the cones overlap. The brain integrates these overlapping wavelength signals sent from cones enabling us to distinguish between millions of different colors.[3]

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Cool colors Illustration
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Warm colors Illustration

The Psychological Effects of Color

Why in our lives is color such a strong force? How does it affect our minds and bodies? The color preference between men and women is different. It also varies with age groups. There are some color effects that have universal meaning as example The red variations of the spectrum of colors, which include red, orange and yellow, are known as warm colors. These warm colors elicit feelings from warmth and relaxation to frustration, anger and aggression. Blue spectrum colors, which contain blue, purple and green, are known as cool colors. Sometimes those colors are characterized as peaceful and calm, the colors are often able to invoke emotions of sorrow or indifference. We can use those colors as therapy. Several ancient cultures have practiced chromotherapy or the use of colors to cure, including the Egyptians and Chinese. Often chromotherapy is called light therapy or color therapy. Mainly they use five colors for their treatments.

· Red is used for body and mind relaxation and circulation improvement.

· Orange is used for lung healing and energy enhancement.

· Blue is believed to soothe illnesses and treat pain.

· Shades of Indigo are meant to relieve skin issues.

Colours can give us pleasure or sadness, which can give us hunger or relaxation. These reactions are based on psychological , biological and cultural impacts. Therefore, it is important to understand the psychological effects of colors and the basics of color theory and color meanings.

Color Can Influence on memory Performance

Studies have also shown that some colors can influence the performance. No one wants to see a graded test coated with red ink, but one study showed that seeing the color red before taking an exam actually hurt test results. Colour has been found to influence memory performance by increasing our attentional level and arousal. There exist robust evidences from several studies that have been conducted to explore the relationship between colour and memory performance. Human cognition involves many mental processes that are highly interrelated, such as perception, attention, memory, and thinking. An important and core cognitive process is memory, which is commonly associated with the storing and remembering of environmental information. Colors can impact for those. Colour helps us in memorizing certain information by increasing our attentional level. The role played by colour in enhancing our attention level is undisputable. It was predicted that higher level of contrast will attract more attention and better visibility of an object or information. Stimuli with white foreground on red background can have a higher level of contrast compared to the other colour combination. Similarly, the use of a white colour background with black colour foreground has a better contrast level for memory retention for both short-term and long-term

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[1]. Article by AMANDAN GILLIES, NOVEMBER 26, 2014

[2]. Azeemi, S. T. Y., & Raza, S. M. (2005). A Critical Analysis of Chromotherapy and Its Scientific Evolution. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2(4), 481–488. http://doi.org/10.1093/ecam/neh137

[3]. Chellappa, S. L., Ly, J., Meyer, C., Balteau, E., Degueldre, C., Luxen, A., Phillips, C., Cooper, H., & Vandewalle, G. (2014). Photic memory for executive brain responses. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(16), 6087–6091. doi:doi: 10.1073/pnas.1320005111

[4]. Adams FM, Osgood CE. A cross-cultural study of the affective meaning of color. J Cross Cult Psychol. 1973;4(2):135–156. [Google Scholar]

[5]. Wichmann FA, Sharpe LT, Gegenfurtner KR. The contributions of color to recognition memory for natural scenes. J Exp Psychol Learn. 2002;28(3):509–520. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]

[6]. Morton J. [cited 2010 Dec 20];Why color matters. 2010 Available from: http://www.colormatters.com/color-and-design/why-color-matters/ [Google Scholar]

[7]. Moore RS, Stammerjohan CA, Coulter RA. Banner advertiser-web site context congruity and color effects on attention and attitude. J Advertising. 2005;34(2):71–84. [Google Scholar]

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Hey there, I’m undergraduate of University of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka and passionate about UI/UX designing and to give meaningful solutions to everyday life.

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