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David R. Simmons; The association of colours with emotions: A systematic approach. Journal of Vision 2006;6(6):251. doi: 10.1167/6.6.251.
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There is a plethora of data concerning the relationship between colours and emotions, but little of this has been systematically collected. One view is that all such relationships are labile and determined by a combination of cultural and experiential influences. As such, data on colour-emotion relationships should be highly variable both between individuals and between cultures. Another view is that there is a physiological basis to these relationships which is likely to be universal. We have approached this issue systematically by running a series of experiments in which participants were presented with an array of three coloured patches, chosen from a limited set, on a neutral gray background. Colours were specified using CIE coordinates. Participants were asked to choose which of the three evoked the largest emotional response on a given affective dimension. By exhaustively testing all possible three-colour combinations from the set, a hierarchy could be established for the colour-emotion relationships under test. So far two affective dimensions have been examined: pleasant-unpleasant and arousing-calming. The most pleasant colours were found to be saturated blues and purples. The most unpleasant were greenish and yellowish browns. The most arousing (“mood-lifting”) were saturated reds and yellows, whereas the most calming were pale (whitish) blues and purples. Whilst the participants were culturally homogeneous there was nevertheless a remarkable level of agreement between them, suggesting either that colour-emotion associations are stereotyped within a given culture, possibly due to media influences, or that there is a strong physiological component to them.
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