Color Psychology & Color Association

Katherine Denman

Student Projects, Color



Color is a useful resource when practically applied. Human's physiological reaction to different wavelengths is more than our ability to differentiate hue, value, and chroma. We also have emotional and physical responses to various wavelengths. Studies on these emotional and physical responses show that effects of color are both universal and cultural. Furthermore, although there are no conclusive results from studies on the psychological effects of color, scientists have found trends in human color associations. Understanding these common color associations gives you the power to manipulate your choice of color for the purpose of targeting a desired audience. This procedure is often used in the fields of advertising and designing in order to make a product more appealing.



1. Research common color associations.

2. Use this research to make generalizations on the emotional and behavioral effects of color.

3. Using "Color Matters- Global Color Survey," survey the class on common concepts linked with color associations.

4. For each question, find the most common response.

5. Compare the class responses to those from the Global Survey Results.

6. Analyze any trends between the two sets of data.

Observations and Data

Research on Emotional and Behavioral/ Physical Responses to Colors

Color Name Emotional Responses Behavioral/ Physical Responses
Black Mystery & loneliness n/a
White Purity & balance n/a
Purple/ Violet Exotic n/a
Blue Freshness Reduced pulse, body temperature and appetite
Green Hopeful Mentally soothing, calms nerves
Yellow Spirituality & inspiration Attention grabbing, alarming
Orange Happy & lively Perceived as glowing, also attention grabbing
Red Passion Over- exposure causes agitation, raises pulse, increased appetite

This table shows some of the basic effects of color on the human mind and body. In order to better understand color associations, two sets of results from one color association survey will be studied. In this survey, the subject is asked to say which color, from a chart of 44 colors, comes to mind when thinking about a particular concept. To see color chart and survey click here, Global Color Survey

"Global Color Survey Results:

Since 1997, over 30,000 people from all points on the globe took the survey."

(Copyright Color Matters 1995-2002, J.L.Morton.)

Inexpensive - Brown

Powerful - Red (tomato)

Dependable - Blue

High Quality - Black

Nausea - Green

Deity - White

Bad Luck - Black

Favorite Color - Blue

Least Favorite Color - Orange

Happy - Yellow

Pure - White

Good Luck - Green

Good tasting - Red (tomato)

Dignity - Purple

High Technology - Silver

Sexiness - Red (tomato)

Mourning - Black

Expensive - Gold

Class Results:

Inexpensive- Yellows, browns & oranges

Powerful- Dark blue & blue

Dependable- Greens & blues

High Quality- Black & blue grey

Nausea- Muted yellow- green & mustard

Deity- White & sky blue

Bad Luck- Black

Favorite Color- Blues

Least Favorite Color- Mustard

Happy- Yellows

Pure- White

Good Luck- Greens

Good tasting- Green & red

Dignity- Blues & purples

High Technology- Grey & silver

Sexiness- Reds

Mourning- Black

Expensive- Platinum


Comparing the Global Color Survey results with the results of our class show that in almost every category there are correlations between certain colors, or at least hues, and associations.

In 8 of the 18 associations the results are exactly the same.
In only 3 of the associations are the results unrelated.
In the rest of 18 associations the results are similar, meaning that they are from the same color family or are adjacent on the color wheel.

Color Wheel

image found at

The strong correlation between colors and their associations proves that there is a lot to be said about this type of color psychology. This psychology is used in everyday life and can be manipulated in advertising to sell products and in designing to produce the most effective and desirable product.



Research on Color Associations

Colorteam- The Psychology of Color

Psychology of Color: Do Colors Affect your Mood?

Associated Meanings of Color


Other References

Color Psychology and Color Therapy. Faber Birren. New York University Book. 1961

The Power of Color. Dr. Morton Walker. Avery Publishing Group. 1991


Many thanks to Dr. Bordley!