Color-Emotions Associations

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AIC 2004 Color and Paints, Interim Meeting of the International Color Association, Proceedings

Color-emotion associations: Past experience and personal preference Naz KAYA and Helen H. EPPS Department of Textiles, Merchandising, and Interiors The University of Georgia

ABSTRACT This study examined color-emotion associations and the reasons for emotional reactions given to colors. Ten fully saturated chromatic colors were chosen from the Munsell color system: red, yellow, green, blue, purple, yellow-red, green-yellow, blue-green, purple-blue, and redpurple. Apart from these ten hue groups, three achromatic colors (white, black and gray) were also used. The sample consisted of 98 volunteered college students at a public institution in the southeast region of the US. Results revealed that the principle hues comprised the highest number of positive emotional responses, followed by the intermediate hues and the achromatic colors. Color symbolism seems to be apparent in how individuals associate colors with things, objects or physical space. Red-purple, for instance, was associated with the color of red wine, plum, bridesmaid dress, or the color of a bedroom. Overall, a color-related emotion was highly dependent on personal preference and one’s past experience with that particular color. 1. INTRODUCTION Colors can relate to our emotions and feelings. For instance, the color blue is associated with comfort and security, orange is perceived as distressing and upsetting, yellow as cheerful, purple as dignified (Ballast 2002, Mahnke 1996). The color red has both positive and negative impressions such as active, strong, and passionate, but on the other hand aggressive, bloody, raging and intense. The color green has a retiring and relaxing effect. It too has both positive and negative impressions such as quietness, naturalness, and conversely tiredness and guilt (Davey 1998, Linton 1999). In a study examining color-emotion associations, Boyatzis and Varghese (1994) found that light colors (e.g., yellow, blue) are associated with positive emotions (e.g., happy, strong) and dark colors (e.g., black, gray) with negative emotions (e.g., sad, angry). Hemphill (1996) also found that bright colors elicited mainly positive emotional associations, while dark colors elicited negative emotional associations, confirming the results obtained by Boyatzis and Varghese (1994). However, Saito (1996) found that the color black elicited both negative and positive responses among Japanese subjects, and that black was often a preferred color among young people. Although the impact of color on our emotions has been examined considerably, many studies have failed to use color samples from a standardized system of color notation (Boyatzis and Varghese 1994, Hemphill 1996), while others elicited individuals’ responses to verbal labels of color (e.g., “red”, “blue”) instead of using actual color stimuli. Furthermore, several studies have used color-emotion matching tasks; matching colors (e.g., red, blue) to a certain number of emotions (e.g., happiness, sadness), which results in limited assessments of reactions to colors. 31

AIC 2004 Color and Paints, Interim Meeting of the International Color Association, Proceedings

The purpose of this study was to examine college students’ color-emotion associations, referencing color samples from the standardized Munsell color system and to investigate the reasons for students’ emotional reactions to each color. 2. METHOD Ninety-eight volunteered college students (44 men and 54 women) participated in the study. They were asked to indicate their emotional responses to five principle hues (i.e., red, yellow, green, blue, purple), five intermediate hues (i.e., yellow-red, green-yellow, blue-green, purpleblue, and red-purple), and three achromatic colors (white, gray, and black) and the reasons for their choices. The Munsell notations are shown in Table 1. Table 1. Munsell notations. Color Red Yellow Green Blue...
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