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Zoe Xu, Karen B. Schloss, Stephen E. Palmer; The Color of Emotionally Expressive Faces. Journal of Vision 2010;10(7):403. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/10.7.403.
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Schloss, Lawler, and Palmer (VSS-2008) investigated the relation between color and classical music by having participants select the 5 colors that “went best” (and, later, the 5 colors that “went worst”) with 18 musical pieces from among the 37 colors of the Berkeley Color Project (Palmer & Schloss, submitted). They found that the emotional associations of the colors that were chosen for a particular musical selection were closely related to the emotional associations of that musical selection. They proposed that when people perform this task, they have an emotional response to the music and chose the colors that are most (or least) closely associated with those same emotions. In this study we used the same paradigm to test for analogous associations between colors and emotionally expressive faces. In the color-face task, the participants were presented with the entire array of 37 colors beside a photograph of a face that appeared happy, sad, angry, or calm to varying degrees. Their task was to choose the five colors that were most consistent with the face and (later) the five colors that were least consistent with the face. In the color-emotion task, the same participants rated the strength of association for each of 37 colors with three emotional dimensions: happy-sad, angry-contented, and strong-weak. In the face-emotion task, the same participants rated the strength of association for the faces along the same three emotional dimensions. Analogous to color-music associations, the emotional associations of the colors chosen to go with the faces were highly correlated with the emotional content of the faces. The results are consistent with the general hypothesis that associations between colors and stimuli that have clear emotional content (e.g., classical music and emotionally expressive faces) are mediated by emotion: People choose the colors that have the most similar emotional content.
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