Can color affect your mood and behavior? (2023)

Do you feel anxious in a yellow room? Does the color blue make you feel calm and relaxed? Artists and interior designers have long believed that color can dramatically affect moods, feelings, and emotions. "Like facial features, colors follow changes in emotion," artist Pablo Picasso once remarked.

Color is a powerful means of communication and can be used to signal actions, influence mood, and even influence physiological responses. Certain colors have been linked to physiological changes, including increased blood pressure, increased metabolism and eyestrain.

This article describes what color psychology means and how colors affect the mind and body. It also explores the effects of color and the psychological responses people can experience.

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What is color psychology?

Color psychology is the study of how different colors affect human mood and behavior. It examines how color can affect emotional responses and how responses to color are affected by factors such as age and cultural background.

Various topics of interest in this area include:

  • The meaning of the colors
  • How colors affect physiological responses
  • Emotional Reactions to Color
  • Factors affecting color preferences
  • Cultural differences in the meanings and associations of different colors
  • Whether colors can affect mental health
  • How colors can influence behavior
  • Ways color can be used to promote well-being
  • How color can be used to improve safety and make living and working environments more optimal

History of Color Psychology

The scientific study of color psychology is relatively new, but people have long been interested in the nature and effects of color. In ancient cultures, colors were often used to treat various conditions and affect emotions. They also played a role in various spiritual practices.

(Video) How Colors Affect Your Mood

In 1666, the English scientist Sir Isaac Newton discovered that pure white light, when passed through a prism, splits into all visible colors. Newton also found that each color consists of a single wavelength and cannot be further broken down into other colors.

Further experiments showed that light can combine to form other colors. For example, red light mixed with yellow light creates an orange color. Some colors, like green and magenta, cancel each other out when mixed, resulting in white light.

"Given the proliferation of color, one would expect color psychology to be a well-developed field," noted researchers Andrew Elliot and Markus Maier in a review of existing color psychology research. "Surprisingly, little theoretical or empirical work has been done on the impact of color on psychological functioning, and the work that has been done has been driven mostly by practical concerns rather than scientific rigor."

Despite the general lack of research in the field, color psychology has become a hot topic in marketing, art, design, and other fields.

Much of the evidence in this emerging field is anecdotal at best, but researchers and experts have made some important discoveries and observations about the psychology of color and its effect on mood, feelings, and behavior.

The psychological effect of color

Why is color such a powerful force in our lives? What effects can it have on our body and mind? While color perceptions are somewhat subjective, some color effects have universal meanings.

Colors in the red part of the color spectrum are called warm colors and include red, orange, and yellow. These warm colors evoke emotions ranging from feelings of warmth and comfort to feelings of anger and hostility.

Colors on the blue side of the spectrum are known as cool colors and include blue, purple, and green. These colors are often described as calm, but they can also evoke feelings of sadness or indifference.

Symbolic color meanings

Symbolic meanings often associated with different colors:

  • Red: passion, excitement, love
  • Pink: Soft, reserved, earthy
  • Purple: Mysterious, noble, glamorous
  • Blue: Wisdom, Hope, Reason, Peace
  • Green: nature, growth, freshness
  • Yellow: hope, joy, danger
  • Orange: warmth, friendliness, joy
  • White: truth, indifference
  • Black: Noble, mysterious, cold
(Video) Does Color Really Affect How You Act?

A 2020 study examining the emotional associations of 4,598 people from 30 different countries found that people commonly associate certain colors with certain emotions. According to the study results:

  • Schwarz: 51% of respondents associate black with sadness
  • Weiss: 43% of people associate white with relief
  • Rot: 68% associate red with love
  • Blau: 35% associated blue with feelings of relief
  • Green: 39% associate green with happiness
  • Gelb: 52% agreed that yellow meant happiness
  • Lila: 25% said they associate purple with pleasure
  • Braun: 36% associate brown with disgust
  • Orange: 44% associate orange with joy
  • Rosa: 50% are connected with love with pink

The study's researchers suggested that such results suggest that color-emotion associations appear to have universal qualities. These shared meanings can play an essential role in aiding communication.

Your feelings about color are often deeply personal and rooted in your own experience or culture. For example, while the color white is used in many western countries to represent purity and innocence, in many eastern countries it is seen as a symbol of mourning.

Color psychology as therapy

Several ancient cultures, including the Egyptians and Chinese, practiced chromotherapy, or the use of color for healing. Chromotherapy is sometimes referred to as light therapy or colorology.

Colorology is still used today as a holistic or alternative treatment. With this treatment:

  • Rotused to stimulate the body and mind and increase blood flow.
  • Gelbis said to stimulate the nerves and purify the body.
  • Orangeused to heal the lungs and increase energy levels.
  • BlauIt is believed to relieve disease and treat pain.
  • IndigoShades are designed to alleviate skin problems.

Although more research is needed, a 2020 study suggests that chromotherapy could be an effective way to combat feelings of compassion fatigue and post-traumatic stress in ICU caregivers.

What is color therapy?

Modern research on color psychology

Most psychologists are skeptical about color therapy, pointing out that the supposed effect of color is often greatly exaggerated. Colors also have different meanings in different cultures.

(Video) Color Psychology - How Colors Influence Your Choices and Feelings

However, the mood-altering effects of color can only be temporary. A blue room can initially induce a sense of calm, but the effect wears off after a short time.

However, existing research has shown that color can affect people in several surprising ways:

  • white pillsare associated with greater pain relief, while red pills are associated with greater stimulant properties.
  • Rotcauses people to react with greater speed and power, which researchers say could help with athletic activities.
  • Schwarz-Uniformed players are more likely to be penalized in athletic competitions.

Additional research is still required

Interest in the subject of color psychology is growing, but some questions remain unanswered. How do color associations arise? How strong is the influence of these associations on behavior in the real world?

Can color be used to increase worker productivity or workplace safety? Which colors influence consumer behavior? Do certain personality types prefer certain colors? As researchers continue to explore such questions, we may soon learn more about the impact of color on human psychology.

Zena O'Connor, a faculty member in the School of Architecture, Design and Planning at the University of Sydney, suggests that people should be wary of many of the claims they see about the psychology of colour.

"Many of these claims lack empirical support, have fundamental flaws (such as causal simplification and subjective validation), and may contain factoids presented as facts," explains O'Connor. "Furthermore, such claims often relate to outdated research without reference to current research."


More research is needed to understand the mental and physical effects of color. There may be universal associations, but many other factors, including personal preferences and individual experiences, also play important roles in your unique emotional and behavioral response.

Color can affect performance

Studies have also shown that certain colors can have an impact on performance. Nobody likes seeing a graded test covered in red ink, but one study found that seeing the color red before taking an exam actually affects test performance.

While the color red is often described as threatening, arousing, or exciting, many previous studies of the color red's effects have been largely inconclusive. However, the study found that exposing students to the color red before an exam has been shown to have a negative impact on test performance.


In the first of the six experiments described in the study, 71 US college students were presented with a participant number colored either red, green, or black before a five-minute test.

The results showed that students who were presented with the red number before taking the test scored more than 20% worse than those presented with both the green and black numbers.

Color and Consumer Purchases

Color psychology suggests that different hues can have different effects, from mood elevation to anxiety. But could the color of the products you buy ever say anything about your personality? For example, could the color of the car you buy somehow relate to some underlying personality traits or quirks?

When purchasing items, your color preferences can say something about the image you are trying to project. Color preferences, from the clothes you wear to the car you drive, can sometimes make a statement about how we want other people to perceive us. Other factors such as age and gender can also influence our color choice.

  • Weiss: As many of our readers have suggested, the color white can feel fresh and clean. The color is often used to evoke a sense of youth and modernity.
  • Schwarz: Our readers often describe black as a "strong" color, which may be why black is the most popular color for luxury vehicles. People often describe the color as sexy, powerful and mysterious.
  • Silber: It is the third most popular vehicle color and represents innovation and modernity. High-tech products are often silver, so the color is often seen as new, modern, and innovative.
  • Rot: Red is a flashy color that attracts attention. So if you prefer this type of car, you might want to convey an image of power, action and confidence.
  • Blau: People often describe blue as the color of stability and security. Driving a blue car or SUV could indicate that you are dependable and trustworthy.
  • Gelb: Driving a yellow vehicle, experts say, can mean you're generally a happy person and perhaps a little more risk-averse than average.
  • Grau: The experts suggest that people who drive gray cars don't want to stand out and prefer something more understated.

Of course, our color choices are often influenced by price, choice, and other practical concerns. Not only that, but color preferences can change over time.

A person may prefer lighter, more flashy colors when they are younger, but gravitate toward more traditional colors as they age. Buyer personality can play an important role in color selection, but buyers are often heavily influenced by factors such as price and availability.

For example, buying a white vehicle might be less about people thinking you're young and modern and more about the climate you live in; People living in hot climates usually prefer light-colored vehicles to dark ones.

A word from Verywell

Color can play an important role in conveying information, creating certain moods, and even influencing people's decisions. Color preferences also affect people's purchasing decisions, the clothes they wear and the way they decorate their surroundings.

People often choose objects in colors that evoke certain moods or feelings, such as B. choosing a car color that looks sporty, futuristic, elegant or trustworthy. Room colors can also be used to evoke certain moods, e.g. B. by painting a bedroom a soft green to create a peaceful mood.

(Video) Color Psychology: Understanding How Color Choices Affects Our Behavior

So what's the bottom line? Experts have found that while colors can have an impact on how we feel and act, these effects depend on personal, cultural, and situational factors. More scientific research is needed to better understand color psychology.


Can color affect your mood and behavior? ›

Color affects your mood through different associations. The human brain associates warm colors—such as red, orange, and yellow—with a range of feelings, including passion, comfort, anger, and power.

How does color affect mental health? ›

Studies have shown that blue and green can create a calming atmosphere; orange and yellow can stimulate appetite; red and pink can inspire passion and energy; while purple can boost creativity and productivity.

What affects your mood? ›

It's thought three factors combine to create them in the brain: biology (for example, hormones and brain chemicals), psychology (such as personality and learned responses), and environment (like illness and emotional stress). Common, everyday causes of a negative mood are: stress. poor sleep, tiredness and overwork.

How does color affect mood for kids? ›

Studies have shown that colors can stimulate different parts of the brain and have an effect on mood, and that is no different for children. It's well known that warm colors like red, orange and yellow tend to be more stimulating, while cool colors like blue and green can feel more peaceful.

Can colors affect your brain? ›

As such, colors can affect neurological pathways in the brain and create a biochemical response. Every color has a wavelength, and each of these affect both the body and the brain in different ways. Using the proper colors and placement can affect feelings, attention and behavior during learning processes.

Can the color of your room affect your mood? ›

It's a scientific fact that color affects mood. Certain hues will make us feel more energetic, or they can be calming. Some even produce feelings of aggression or depression. The types of emotional triggers are caused by the saturation, or purity of the color, as well as its brightness level.

How do colors affect your personality? ›

Warm colors – such as red, yellow and orange – can spark a variety of emotions ranging from comfort and warmth to hostility and anger. Cool colors – such as green, blue and purple – often spark feelings of calmness as well as sadness.

What colors cause anxiety? ›

Colors like red and orange increase anxiety and stress, sometimes even fear. Red and orange are associated with an emergency that can elicit images of emergency vehicles with their lights and sirens on.

What color is best for anxiety? ›

Green – Quiet and restful, green is a soothing color that can invite harmony and diffuse anxiety. Blue – A highly peaceful color, blue can be especially helpful for stress management because it can encourage a powerful sense of calm. Purple – In many cultures, shades of violet represent strength, wisdom and peace.

How does your mood affect your behavior? ›

While a negative mood enhances thoughtful processing, a positive mood causes a processing deficit, or in other words, a sad mood induces a deliberative decision strategy whereas a positive mood leads people to respond more intuitively (Bolte et al., 2003, Clore et al., 1994).

Why does mood affect behavior? ›

Emotions play a critical role in how individuals behave and react to external stimuli; they are often internalized enough for people to fail to notice when they are at work. Emotions and mood can cloud judgment and reduce rationality in decision-making.

How does color affect stress? ›

But it wasn't until our friends at the online design service Decorist tipped us off to a certain Minnesota State University study that we realized just how powerful color can be. The key findings? Red increases stress, while green and white decrease stress.

How Does color Affect attention? ›

Colour helps us in memorizing certain information by increasing our attentional level. The role played by colour in enhancing our attention level is undisputable (14,23). The more attention focused on certain stimuli, the more chances of the stimuli to be transferred to a more permanent memory storage (18).

Why do moods change colors? ›

The crystals respond to changes in temperature by twisting. The twisting changes their molecular structure, which alters the wavelengths of light that are absorbed or reflected. 'Wavelengths of light' is another way of saying 'color', so when the temperature of the liquid crystals changes, so does their color.

What color is most calming to the brain? ›

New research claims that dark blue is the world's most relaxing colour. Research carried out by the University of Sussex and paper company G.F Smith, draws on a survey of 26,596 people, from more than 100 countries.

What color stimulates your mental process? ›

Stronger shades of blue supports the brain's thought processes, while lighter shades help improve concentration.

What color is best for your brain? ›

1) Green: Concentration

Low wavelength colors promote restfulness and calm, and they improve efficiency and focus. So that's why green is an excellent color for improving concentration. Apart from being one of the easiest colors on the eyes, it reminds us of nature. That's why TV stars stay in the 'green room'.

What color sets a good mood? ›

Warmer red, orange, and yellow shades are "comforting, optimistic, energetic," while their cooler counterparts, like green, blue, and purple, "often exude tranquility, relaxation, and calmness." Still, the shade that makes you feel calm, inspired, happy, or focused isn't always the one some tone else would choose.

What colors set the mood? ›

In general, warm colors are more stimulating. So, a yellow bedroom or a purple bedroom will set an invigorating tone. A red bedroom inspires passion. Cooler colors, like blues, greens, and grays, are more calming.

What wall colors are best for mental health? ›

"Shades of blue or green are always very calming. Blues are especially known to have a relaxing effect perfect for creating a serene feeling at home," says Nicole Gibbons, interior designer and founder of Clare Paint.

Do colors describe your personality? ›

Colors can influence your emotions and behaviors, but "color psychology" yields no real insight into your personality.

What are the 4 personality colors? ›

The Discovery tool uses the concept of four colors to describe four different styles of personality (precise cool blue, caring earth green, sociable sunshine yellow, and confident fiery red).

How does light color affect mood? ›

Some studies have shown that brighter light can intensify emotions, while low light doesn't remove emotions, but keeps them steady. This can lead to people having the ability to make more rational decisions in low light and find it easier to agree with others in negotiation. Saturation is the intensity of a color.

What color is jealousy? ›

Red” “Red” was indicated among the top three colors for anger, followed by jealousy, fear, and envy, respectively (Figure 2).

What color means depression? ›

Color and depression: What's the link? When it comes to depression colors, gray and blue tend to be high on the list of those associated with low mood. In a 2010 study using the Manchester Color Wheel, experts found gray was the color people pointed to when asked to reflect feelings of depression.

What color is sadness? ›

Grey is the quintessential sad color, but dark and muted cool colors like blue, green or neutrals like brown or beige can have a similar effect on feelings and emotions depending on how they're used. In Western cultures black is often considered the color of mourning, whereas in some East Asian countries it's white.

What color is best for healing? ›

Green is the color of healing; it is beneficial in all healing situations. In the aura green signifies balance, peace and often indicates ability as a healer.

What is the most stressful color? ›

According to color psychologists, the most stressful and anxiety-inducing color is 'red'. Red room ideas can be too intense for some people – could your red decor be one of the reasons why your friends hate your house? It reminds us of danger and is a color that makes you angry.

What color makes you feel happy? ›

Yellow is usually the color of happy, joyful emotions.

Is mood part of behavior? ›

Mood is an internal, subjective state but it often can be inferred from posture and other behaviors. "We can be sent into a mood by an unexpected event, from the happiness of seeing an old friend to the anger of discovering betrayal by a partner. We may also just fall into a mood."

What are mood affect and emotions? ›

In everyday language, terms like affect, emotion, and mood are often used interchangeably. Affect is the superordinate category; emotions and moods are states belonging to this category. Emotions and moods are mainly distinguished by their duration, and by whether they are directed at a specific cause.

How do emotions affect individual attitude and behavior? ›

The difference between emotions and attitudes are emotions involve immediate responses and instantaneously affect our behavior, and on the other hand, attitudes are more stable over time as it involves a cognitive process where it considers other factors such as beliefs, feelings and behavioral intentions toward the ...

Can people affect your mood? ›

You can be infected with someone's happiness — or sadness. Researchers call this phenomenon emotional contagion (EC), in which one person's emotions transfer to another. It involves all types of emotions, from angry, sad and fearful to happy, enthusiastic and joyful.

Does behavior affect personality? ›

Because we are profoundly influenced by the situations that we are exposed to, our behaviour does change from situation to situation, making personality less stable than we might expect. And yet personality does matter — we can, in many cases, use personality measures to predict behaviour across situations.

Can your mood affect people around you? ›

Being in a bad mood could impact our orientation toward another's suffering and our desire to alleviate it. In addition, since bad moods may be contagious, being in a bad mood could put others in a bad mood, which might impact their ability to empathize with us, as well.

What is a dark mood? ›

/ˌblæk ˈmuːd/ a very unhappy feeling: She was in one of her black moods today. SMART Vocabulary: related words and phrases.

What are the four main moods? ›

There are four kinds of basic emotions: happiness, sadness, fear, and anger, which are differentially associated with three core affects: reward (happiness), punishment (sadness), and stress (fear and anger).

What are three examples of mood? ›

Mood Explained
  • Cheerful.
  • Reflective.
  • Gloomy.
  • Humorous.
  • Melancholy.
  • Idyllic.
  • Whimsical.
  • Romantic.

What colors trigger stress? ›

Using a lot of red or other bold colors can lead to overstimulation and, you guessed it, stress. Another non-calming color is bright white, which may come as a surprise. While Dunford explains that neutrals often relieve stress, too much of them (especially white) does the opposite.

What colors are best for depression? ›

Colors that Reduce Stress, Anxiety and Depression
  • Blue. ...
  • Purple. ...
  • Green. ...
  • Yellow. ...
  • Orange. ...
  • Tan. ...
  • Gray. ...
  • Red. A very powerful color, red can easily raise energy levels and stimulate moods.

What color is anger? ›

Undoubtedly, the strongest link between an individual emotion and color is “red” and anger, which has been noted across studies and formats (e.g., Kaya and Epps, 2004; Sutton and Altarriba, 2016).

Why do colors affect our behavior? ›

Colors close to the red spectrum are warmer colors, including red, orange, and yellow. These warm colors evoke emotions ranging from feelings of warmth and comfort to feelings of anger and hostility. Whereas blue colors like purple and green are known for evoking feelings of calm, sadness, or indifference.

What colors make people focus? ›

Low wavelength colors, colors that help you focus like green and blue have been shown in scientific studies to improve focus, and efficiency. Green is especially useful for home office workers who spend a lot of time in front of the screen, as it lessens eye fatigue.

What color is good for memory? ›

Do certain colors improve memory? In one study, students in British Columbia scored higher on memory tasks when completing them on a red background.

Do depressed people see Colour differently? ›

The studies were published in the journal Psychological Science. It may be that sadness impairs the ability to perceive colors because it interferes with low-level contrast sensitivity, Thorstenson says, which can in turn affect higher order color judgment.

Why do your moods change so much? ›

Mood changes, or swings, refer to abrupt shifts in your mood or emotional state, and may be a normal response to stress or hormonal shifts. However, they can also signify a mental health disorder like borderline personality disorder or bipolar disorder, which is characterized by extremely high and low moods.

What mood is blue? ›

Blue calls to mind feelings of calmness and relaxation. 3 It is often described as peaceful, tranquil, secure, and orderly. Blue is seen as a sign of stability and reliability.

Does color Affect anxiety? ›

Stay away from bright, bold, and intense colors. Colors like red and orange increase anxiety and stress, sometimes even fear. Red and orange are associated with an emergency that can elicit images of emergency vehicles with their lights and sirens on.

What colors are best for mental health? ›

Green – Quiet and restful, green is a soothing color that can invite harmony and diffuse anxiety. Blue – A highly peaceful color, blue can be especially helpful for stress management because it can encourage a powerful sense of calm. Purple – In many cultures, shades of violet represent strength, wisdom and peace.

What is the color of anxiety? ›

The colors we use to describe emotions may be more useful than you think, according to new research. The study found that people with or anxiety were more likely to associate their mood with the color gray, while preferred yellow.

What colors cause stress? ›

It was found that subjects in red the red room condition had higher stress rating scores compared to green or white room conditions. Consequently, the findings suggest that environment color plays a significant role in stress perception.

What color makes people feel better? ›

Happy colors are bright, warm colors like yellow, orange, pink and red. Pastel colors like peach, light pink or lilac can also have an uplifting effect on your mood. The brighter and lighter a color, the more happy and optimistic it will make you feel.

What color makes people the happiest? ›

Yellow is usually the color of happy, joyful emotions.

What is the most peaceful color? ›

New research claims that dark blue is the world's most relaxing colour. Research carried out by the University of Sussex and paper company G.F Smith, draws on a survey of 26,596 people, from more than 100 countries.

Why do colors give me anxiety? ›

Chromophobia is an intense fear of colors. Most people with this disorder have an extreme aversion to one or two colors in particular — or they may only fear bright colors. People with chromophobia have severe anxiety or panic attacks when they see a color they're afraid of.


1. The Psychology of Color | Riley Johnson | TEDxLosOsosHighSchool
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2. The language of color - effects on our experience and behaviour | Axel Buether | TEDxKielUniversity
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3. Color Qualities and how they affect your mood, behavior and vibes.
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