The Listening Party

A Colourful Series: Psychology

[By Gloria Ngu]

This series started off by explaining how colours are not actually what they seem to be.

But even though colours are merely the way we understand lightwaves, they still play a pretty important role in our lives. There are various theories out there about how and why colours affect us, and the most popular answers seem to be culture, and energy. Theories aside, it is an indisputable fact that colour does indeed affect us.

Here’s how:

  1. Emotionally

Warm colours such as red, orange and yellow often evoke feelings of happiness, optimism and energy; however too much of these colours can also over-stimulate and irritate the eyes. These positive feelings can be linked to the physical responses that these colours cause.

Cool colours (green, blue and purple) on the other hand, can make us feel calm and relaxed – but they can also lead to feelings of melancholy and even depression, depending on the shade.

Earthy and grey shades are generally thought to be neutral and take on the properties of colours around them, though it has been shown that too much of these colours in a room can lead to a dull, moody environment.

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Looking a little moody there, Patrick…

  1. Behaviourally/ physically

Green is generally agreed on as the most relaxing of colours. This is seen in physical reactions shown when people were exposed to green paper or placed in a green room. The reactions included the slowing down of the heart rate, lowering of blood pressure and relaxing of muscles. On the other hand, colours like red and orange lead to opposite physical reactions.

Warm colours like red, orange and yellow have the effect of increasing your appetite as they are often associated with food, so you might want to think twice about painting your kitchen these colours if you have the tendency to overeat. You might have noticed that many of the restaurants and eateries out there have elements of these colours in their designs, and now you know why!

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Red has been proven to increase appetites. ‘I’ll just have another bite…’ [Image credits: Sean Dreilinger]

  1. Cognitively

Not surprisingly, the colour red has been proven to increase a person’s focus and draw their attention, hence it is used for traffic lights and other notices that are meant to grab your attention. For the same reason, red items in a room may be a distraction, especially if you want to focus on a task at hand.

If you want to encourage creativity, try using the colour purple. It is a mix of red and blue, and it has an optimal balance between stimulation and serenity that can help you be more creative.

Green and blue are often cited as colours that increase productivity, perhaps due to the fact that they both give people a sense of calmness. Given this popular belief, it is interesting to note that researchers from University of British Columbia found that the colour blue inhibits solution time for detail-oriented tasks.

There are many debates going on about the validity of colour psychology, the subjectivity of it and the many conflicting studies. Another reason this topic is so hotly debated is the fact that our perception of a colour is influenced by personal preference, experience, culture, upbringing and context amongst other factors. However, the effects of different colours on us just cannot be ignored. Why not start observing your surroundings today to see how certain colours affect you?

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