It is the effects of the electro-magnetic radiation of light on human mood and behavior – a universal, psychophysical reaction, which is not as heavily influenced by culture, age and gender as is generally thought. It is important to understand that there is a great difference between color psychology and color symbolism. Historically, what is often described as color psychology is actually color symbolism – the conscious associations that we are conditioned to make. There are many examples of color symbolism: purple is associated with royalty for the simple reason that, until relatively recently in our history, it was an extremely expensive dye and only royalty could afford it; red is the color of blood and has associations with war.
Color is energy and the fact that it has a physical effect on us has been proved time and again in experiments – most notably when blind people were asked to identify colors with their fingertips and were all able to do so easily. The shorter the wavelength, the stronger the underlying physical effect Color is Nature’s own powerful signaling system – the universal, non-verbal language. Scientifically, it is the first thing we register when we are assessing anything: a very simple and obvious example of that is our reaction to a fly in our home: if it is black or navy blue, we will probably find it a minor irritation, but if it has yellow stripes our reaction will be different – most of us will recoil. The same instinct tells us when food is unsafe to eat and throughout the animal kingdom color is widely used to signal sexual availability.
In practice, color psychology works on two levels: the first level is the fundamental psychological properties of the eleven basic colors, which are universal, regardless of which particular shade, tone or tint of it you are using. Each of them has potentially positive or negative psychological effects and which of these effects is created depends on personality types and – crucially – the relationships within color combinations, the second level of color psychology.
Positive: Physical courage, strength, warmth, energy, basic survival, ‘fight or flight’, stimulation, masculinity, excitement.
Negative: Defiance, aggression, visual impact, strain.
Positive: Intelligence, communication, trust, efficiency, serenity, duty, logic, coolness, reflection, calm.
Negative: Coldness, aloofness, lack of emotion, unfriendliness.
Positive: Optimism, confidence, self-esteem, extraversion, emotional strength, friendliness, creativity.
Negative: Irrationality, fear, emotional fragility, depression, anxiety, suicide.
Positive: Harmony, balance, refreshment, universal love, rest, restoration, reassurance, environmental awareness, equilibrium, peace.
Negative: Boredom, stagnation, blandness, enervation.
Positive: Spiritual awareness, containment, vision, luxury, authenticity, truth, quality.
Negative: Introversion, decadence, suppression, inferiority.
Positive: Physical comfort, food, warmth, security, sensuality, passion, abundance, fun.
Negative: Deprivation, frustration, frivolity, immaturity.
Positive: Physical tranquillity, nurture, warmth, femininity, love, sexuality, survival of the species.
Negative: Inhibition, emotional claustrophobia, emasculation, physical weakness.
Positive: Psychological neutrality.
Negative: Lack of confidence, dampness, depression, hibernation, lack of energy.
Positive: Sophistication, glamour, security, emotional safety, efficiency, substance.
Negative: Oppression, coldness, menace, heaviness.