Colour Me: The Psychological Properties of Colours

Colour has been proven to have both an emotional and mental effect on people from all walks of life, though it can affect people from different cultural backgrounds in different ways. While colours often have different interpretations and perceptions, colour psychology can influence our feelings, actions and tastes. Read on if you want to find out more about the psychological properties of colours.

Everyday Emotions

Have you noticed that certain rooms or places can make you feel either tenser or calmer? Colour is more than likely determining your feelings, and it could be having a different effect on everyone within the place. For example, various studies have proven that people who stared at a red hue experience adrenaline and a heart rate increase. That is because red is deemed a colour of passion, aggression or defiance, at least by men. Surprisingly, the mixed opinions about what the colour red represents are split along gender lines. To women, it’s known as the colour of love while, to men, it tends to be associated with anger. Perhaps because of this tension, red has been voted Britain’s least favourite colour.

Warm colours, such as red, orange and yellow, can also make a person feel warmth, comfort or hostility, depending on their perception. However, cooler colours, such as blue, green or purple, can cause a person to feel calm, or even more sad than they were. Despite the perception of sadness, blue has been voted the UK’s favourite colour, as it can represent intelligence, confidence, trust and truth. It can also make a person feel peaceful. This is similar to the effect green has on people – it’s calming, and it gives most people a feeling of security. This is why many hospitals use a pale green shade on their walls, and the relationship between the colour green and the idea of nature takes the edge of the clinical white which can make some patients feel nervous.

Colour has an extraordinary effect on our perceptions. It’s something that shapes our everyday experience, whoever or wherever we happen to be. It’s therefore essential to identify how different colours make you feel before you decide to redecorate your home in a new colour scheme, as you don’t want to choose a colour that will bring you down or make you feel angry. It might also explain some seemingly irrational thoughts – for example, have you ever despised somebody’s attempt to redecorate, or somebody’s outfit, with no real reason to? The chances are, it’s the colour that’s making you feel so strongly about it.

The Psychology of Colour in Marketing

Both marketing and advertising are well-known for utilising colour psychology to sell a product or service. Not only can colour help to catch a person’s eye on a supermarket shelf, but it can unwittingly trigger different emotions, which can lead to an increase or decrease in sales. Many brands have therefore invested a considerable amount of money into colour research, as they understand that various colour schemes can have a positive or negative impact on an audience, and they want to have the right one.

There are various common traits of colour psychology. For example, white is often associated with purity, innocence and cleanliness, so it is often used in marketing which targets children. However, companies wanting to embody happiness, warmth or hunger will be likely to incorporate the colour yellow into their branding, as it’s often synonymous with sunshine. Next time you go to your local supermarket, see if you can work out why a particular brand has chosen a particular colour to sell their product.

Have you noticed how car advertisements commonly use a black vehicle model? This is more than likely because black is a colour that is thought to be synonymous with affluence, power, strength, authority and seriousness. As a result, it can convince a consumer that they, in turn, will symbolize everything their vehicle represents, so it’s a product worth buying. You only have to look at how many expensive technology companies make products that come in black to realise the effect can have.

Cultural Perceptions

Different hues will have different meanings to different people, and while there is a gender split noticeable in Britain for the colour red, there are other aspects of colour psychology which make it possible to appeal to different target demographics. Colour psychology is often determined by a person’s local custom; for instance, a bride in the western world will typically wear white on her wedding day, however, the colour white is often worn by a widow in South Asia. So, how you view colour will more than likely be determined by your cultural traditions and perceptions as well as other aspects of your demographic.


Different colours will trigger a variety of emotions, and our perceptions are often determined by the complex working systems of the human brain. In fact, your age is a key factor in how you see colours. Personal emotions and cultural attachments to various colours that can shape a person’s response, which may influence our actions in everyday life far more often than we realise.