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Research Paper

Prompt: How do different colors influence human moods?


It is perhaps odd to think that colors are more than just colors. However, the truth is that colors influence our daily lives more than we might think. Usually, people experience a variety of moods and emotions that are caused by life events. Sometimes, though, our moods and emotions can be triggered by simple colors. By what mechanism do colors influence our moods? Many psychological theories explain how color can both cause and change moods.

One theory holds that different colors cause the brain to produce specific chemicals that in turn stimulate a variety of feelings. According to Johnson (2007), colors can cause instantaneous reactions in the brain. For example, the color red can catalyze a feeling of anger, while the color pink has a calming effect. Also, the color yellow can cause irritation and the color blue can support deep relaxation. Johnson established that just the presence of a certain color on a wall is enough to trigger these chemical reactions resulting in altered moods or emotions.

Another theory describes the influence of color in a more physical way by focusing on the human body's response to various hues. Smith (2007) explained that the color yellow is mentally stimulating and assists with memory, while the color red can awaken the nervous system and improve a person's sense of confidence. Smith's findings also revealed that brown can inspire a person to be more orderly, while green can create a sense of compassion. Smith's theory concluded that colors do in fact influence mood and that the impact can be positive or negative.

A third writer, Wollard (2000), also explored the idea that color affects a person's mood. His work added the perspective that there exists a cultural and personal dimension to the psychology of colors. In one example of this cultural relativity, Wollard explains that while Americans generally associate the color red with anger, the Japanese primarily associate it with passion. Further, he explored the personal affinity to a color as the basis for an emotional association, stating that if a person simply "likes" the color brown, it is more likely to elicit a positive emotional response.

Still more researchers have explored the psychology of color and found that there is possibly a physiological aspect at play. Eric, John, and Paraag's (2007) findings suggest that different colors cause measurable changes in physiology including pulse rate, blood pressure and pupil dilation. They found that green makes people feel calm because it invokes deeper, slower breathing patterns. Likewise, they found that blue specifically lowered blood pressure, resulting in a sense of serenity. Their findings were backed by research which used biometry to measure real-time physiological responses to color.

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