Does colour affect mood?

Seeing red? Feeling blue? Colours are often associated with mood.

Pablo Picasso is quoted to have said “Colours, like features, follow the changes of the emotions.”

But despite paint companies blogging about why a yellow kitchen will transform your day and marketing agencies telling you to steer clear of red when advertising, there hasn’t been a huge amount of research in this space.

In their paper Color and Psychological Functioning, researchers Andrew Elliot of the Department of Clinical and Social Sciences in Psychology, University of Rochester and Markus Maier of University of Munich argue that “colour is a ubiquitous perceptual experience, yet little scientific information about the influence of colour on affect, cognition, and behaviour is available.”

Different colours have different meanings in different cultures. Despite this, in the West, these simple classifications are so far generally accepted.

“Colours in the red area of the colour spectrum are known as warm colours and include red, orange and yellow. These warm colours evoke emotions ranging from feelings of warmth and comfort to feelings of anger and hostility.
“Colours on the blue side of the spectrum are known as cool colours and include blue, purple and green. These colours are often described as calm, but can also call to mind feelings of sadness or indifference.”

Most effects are anecdotal but some studies have produced interesting results.

This study found that warm-coloured placebo pills were reported as being more effective than cool-coloured placebo pills.

The previously mentioned Andrew Elliot also discovered that the colour red causes people to react with greater speed and force.

Another study found that sports teams with mostly black uniforms are more likely to receive penalties but that students were more likely to associate negative qualities with a player wearing a black kit.

Whilst the above is interesting, it looks like for the time being charts like this are completely unscientific:

Source: Colour Wheel Pro

Source: Colour Wheel Pro

So we won’t be painting our office yellow any time soon..