By Alison Rood - Colour psychology coach / Workplace Wellness
Posted 13th February 2023
Source: image @alisonrood (image 1)
Colour plays a significant role in our lives, from the clothes we wear to the food we eat to the places we live and work. It can evoke emotions and influences our mood, feelings, thoughts and behaviours. It can impact how we feel about ourselves and how we interact with others.
What is colour
Colour has a profound impact on our lives, whether we realise it or not. It is the first thing we notice when we look at something. Going back to our early ancestors, before we could speak our signalling language was colour, we take colour in before we take in words. According to studies carried out by the CCICOLOR Institute for Color Research, “Up to 85% of the initial perception of your business brand or product is based on colour alone.”
How our brain processes colour and our perception of colour is an extremely complex process which scientists, philosophers, physicians, neuroscientists and artists, to name but a few have studied over thousands of years and continue to do so.
A caveat, I am not a scientist and so I will provide only a brief overview of how we process the sensation we know is colour. For a more in-depth view of the science behind “What colour is and how we see it” I encourage you to watch these two fascinating videos:
Alan Alda’s Flame Challenge presents: What is Color?
The physics and psychology of colour - with Andrew Hanson
The journey of colour starts with a source of light, for example, the sun. You can’t see colour without there being a light source. We then need a surface for the light source to bounce off and our eyes to process this light.
The colours we see are the different wavelengths of light that travel to us from the sun (in this particular scenario) of which we can only see visible light with the naked eye. Which interestingly is only a tiny part of the electromagnetic spectrum. As per the diagram below:
Source: Image 2 (https://www.cyberphysics.co.uk/topics/radioact/Radio/EMSpectrumcolor.jpg
Each colour, from violet through to red has its own wavelength and frequency. For example, blue has a short wavelength of light, higher frequency of around 450nm-495nm compared to red which has a longer wavelength and is less frequent around 620-750nm. It’s down to these different wavelengths of light, hitting our eyes at different rates, that our eyes register blue as a different colour to red. The key here is the light itself, the different colours we see are just the different wavelengths of light.
“When light strikes the human eye the varying wavelengths (which we see as colour) are converted into electrical impulses which pass through the same part of the brain governing our hormones and our endocrine system (the hypothalamus) which governs amongst other things our: sleeping and behavioural patterns, nervous system, appetite, body temperature. What this means is that colour isn’t something you just see. In psychological terms, colour delivers an emotional experience” Karen Haller, https://karenhaller.com/journal/colour-vs-light-which-is-more-important/
Established research into theories relating to colour and psychology has shown that every colour, every tint, tone and shade of colour have specific psychological effects that are universal and influence us on all levels; mental, emotional and physical.
The 4 psychological primary colours
There are 4 psychological primary colours: red, yellow, green and blue and they each trigger specific observable behaviours.
Source: The Little Book of Colour - How to use the psychology of colour to transform your Life, by Karen Haller.
Image 3 : source @alisonrood
To what extent these colours affect us are down to the chromatic intensity. A deeply saturated colour is more likely to stimulate and lower saturated colour is more likely to soothe. For example, a darker colour blue, more intensely saturated can stimulate the mind, helping us to focus or boost our concentration. A lighter blue, less saturated can soothe and calm the mind.
My question to you now is, are you curious to discover more about how other colours can influence us on all levels; mental, emotional and physical? Then come and continue this journey into the fascinating world of colour psychology with me, where understanding your favourite and least favourite colours can reveal the inner you.
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