Colors as emotional architecture building blocks

Getting a sudden craving for certain food is a widely recognised feeling…We eat to fuel our bodies, and we die without food, our bodies collapse. What is less researched is how we “fuel our minds” and more specifically how we fuel our system with visual sensory stimuli. In this blog post I’m taking a closer look on the behavioural effects of color to reflect the origins of “color cravings”…

“Alongside the notes of the musical keyboard and the letters of the alphabet, colours provide the building blocks of our emotions”. 

The quote is by Alain de Botton and refers to the Psychology of Color.  Its a quote that evoked some reflection about my lifelong fascination by the rich universe color, of nuances, saturations and shades and how I actively (but not always consciously) use color as building blocks in everyday emotional architecture, my clothes.

See, I took to colourful dressing habits early, and in my wardrobe and “visual sphere of interest” there are 2 colors that systematically reoccur: Yellow and Green. But and important note is it can’t be just any yellow or green, it needs to be the right shades and saturation. Looking for the perfect shade of yellow and green is like going on a treasure hunt…occationally there is the visual Eureka!  “That is a very nice green” is one of my most worn and torn expressions. Looking at my wardrobe its apparent i’m drawn to yellow and green…so how can I understand that? Is it possible that I have learned from positive experiences, experiences that makes me come back, and want more? 

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The same piece Alain the Botton article, as quoted above, states the following about yellow and green:

“YELLOW – HOPEYellow is carefree and confident. It’s not on the defensive. It acts as a shield against despair and feelings of humiliation. It’s eager for our attention, like a happy child delighted to be at the centre of things. At times, its energy can be oppressive, but like its most famous ambassador – the lemon – there are few things it won’t enhance. The German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe loved yellow, considering it to be the colour of a gently hopeful attitude to life…”

“LIGHT GREEN: SANITY: Light green has the fresh, natural feel of sanity. It is summoned when we are grateful rather than envious. When we don’t need to do down others to feel good about ourselves, and when we are more interested in finding out how things go well rather than complaining when they don’t turn out quite right. We can use this colour to help us focus on our power to do something – rather than blame others for our failings or doubt our strengths”

Conclusion? Exploring the associations around colours is surely a interesting way to get to understand myself and what I communicate through color. Among other things, the psychological “cues” of my 2 favorite colors reflect emotions of confidence and gratitude, values that are important building blocks of my emotional fabric, as Yellow and green are of my wardrobe. 

/Filippa

PS. In spite of the fact that color surrounds is everyday, the powerful effects of color on behaviour is actually not very widely discussed or known. A lot of research has been conducted over the years though, and some of my favorite research are as follows: 

  • Back in the 1970’s, Psychologist Alexander Schauss found that prison detainees who stared at ceilings and walls painted PINK experienced a decrease in aggression. Read more about the shade of pink that had the most profound effect here:“Baker-Miller Pink” 
  • Wearing RED in sports is consistently associated with a higher probability of winning, meaning that choosing a red team color can give you systematic competitive edge (says this study from University of Durham)
  • GREEN is proven to facilitate creative performance, a  this study from University of Rochester shows: “The findings indicate that green has implications beyond aesthetics and suggest the need for sustained empirical work on the functional meaning of green.

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