PERREAULT Magazine October 2014 - Page 45

Sell me a color

Most of us know that artificial chemical dyes have no nutritional value in food and drinks. Still almost every drink and food out there uses them. The reason why they do is simple: It adds color. This color has an effect on our behavior that it is very hard to consciously control. Would you go to a store and buy a strawberry drink that was clear? Or even better, would you buy a brown tomato juice or a red one? I am pretty certain that you would choose the tomato juice that is bright red due to its artificial red coloring as supposed to the oxidized natural tomato juice that turned brown. Think of children too. They are drawn to colorful cereals, drinks, and candy. All the color choices we make are engraved in our brains and are linked to emotional events. We all make choices based on visual appeal and many people will gladly pay extra money just to get something in a particular color, whether is a car, an iphone or a garment. As much as we want to believe that we are very rational, and that the choices we make are conscious, I can tell you that it is not the case. We make choices at the subconscious level and like I mentioned earlier they are all influenced by past behavior. Furthermore, recent research has shown that our color preference is adaptive, meaning people are more likely to make color choices based on past experiences. We tend to favor colors that are associated with positive reactions or events. This is why we tend to favor colors like blue and green. They remind us of nature, the sky, water whereas colors like brown or gray remind us of excrement, mold or a cloudy day.

This also explains why cultures might have different color preferences. For instance, most males in the western hemisphere would think twice before buying a pink motorcycle or a pink shirt. When I went to Thailand I was surprised to see many men wearing pink clothing, riding pink motorcycles and having pink d├ęcor all over the city. It turned out that pink is a royal color and Thai people wear pink to honor their king.

Other cultures have also been known to favor other colors. In the United States, red and blue are highly preferred, but in Japan white is a dominant color. We must take into consideration the cultural effects of colors. You do not want your next power point presentation with a background color that will generate rejection or insult a particular group of people.

Color List?

If you were waiting for a list of colors and what they mean, I am sorry to disappoint you but the truth is that the psychology of colors field is very new. It is hard to come up with set behavioral rules that can apply to a majority of people. Although there is evidence about how certain colors might affect you, it is all greatly dependent on your own personal experiences, culture, gender and age. It is very hard to pin point a particular color to a particular emotional state. There are many questions that need answers before we can precisely predict our color behaviors.

Many questions remain unanswered such as: How long do the effects of a color last before we become numbed by it? (Visual adaptation). Can we really utilize color to affect work productivity and safety? Do certain personality traits prefer some colors over others? Can we use color to change consumer behavior?


Saito, M. 1996. Comparative studies on color preference in Japan and Asian regions. Color Research and Application. 21:35-49.

Kaya, N. & Epps, H. 2004. Relationship between color and emotion: A study of college students. College Student Journal. 38:396-406.

Kwallek, N. et al. 1988. Effects of office interior color on workers, mood and productivity. Perceptual & Motor Skills. 66:123-128.


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