The Hidden Psychology of Colors

Color psychology is something that is all around us but we often forget about it. It’s one of those things that’s hidden in plain sight. However when you dive into the effects that colors have on us you begin to realize their significance. Some examples of this can be seen with how colors can enhance a placebo effect or how blue lights in outdoor areas could play a part in reducing crime. What might seem like a lot of hocus pocus might actually be more real than you think.

Our fixation on colors is both based in psychology and biology. Some colors stand out because they signal danger and others invoke comfort. It’s the reason why red is often used as a means to gain people’s attention (it can potentially signal some kind of danger). This “hard wiring” in our brain might be the reason why these feelings are prevalent amongst people around the world. Let’s take a brief look at some primary colors and the meaning that they tend to carry.

Red

Red is one of the most vibrant colors and with it comes a variety of fiery emotions. It typically represents: power, excitement, love, and anger. It’s attention grabbing and is even known to increase your heart rate when seen. It’s no wonder that it’s often used in company logos and things such as streetlights. It triggers something in the brain that roughly signifies danger but can also represent similarly powerful positive emotions. If you want to make your town car feel more like a sports car, paint it red.

Yellow

Yellow is also bright but it carries a different significance. It typically is associated with: happiness, intellect, energy, and joy. When overused however it can be shown to have a somewhat overwhelming affect. It appears that it is more of an “accent” color. The attention grabbing aspect of it can be seen with why taxi’s are yellow.

Blue

Blue is the “calm” primary color (outside of white and black). It typically represents: authenticity, unity, competence, and integrity. Many baby nurseries have either pink or blue walls because of their calming effects (pink being a more feminine version of blue). In addition to this, some companies use blue within their logo to invoke a sense of security and competence.

Black

Black is a complex color. For the most part it represents: grief, sophistication, fear, power, and elegance. It’s interesting that most of its connotations are negative but there are a handful that convey strength and authority. It’s strange to see this duality in the color black. It could be due to the mysterious nature of the color and how it can come to represent whatever it takes on. It is also a neutral color so it is somewhat absent of a strict meaning. Many formal events usually have people wearing black as a way to keep everyone in a neutral social standing. Getting away from the metaphorical, it also absorbs light and can heat up your shirt or vehicle when left in the sun.

White

White can be seen as both a literal and metaphorical counter color when compared to black. It usually represents: light, goodness, perfection, and cleanliness. When you picture a typical doctor’s office, you think of pristine white walls. It is similar to black in that it is neutral and can take on a variety of meanings but it is diametrically opposed to black and somewhat its inverse.

The interesting thing about colors is that they are subjective. What one person interprets as blue might not be the same blue to someone else. However the strength of the emotions that stay within certain colors does seem to be consistent. When you start to become aware of the colors around you it becomes hard not to think about what they represent. Look around at the walls of your house, the colors of cars on the street, and the application of color in business. You might start to piece together a bigger picture.

In this article

Join the Conversation