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The Psychological Impact Of Color On Emotion, Attitude, and Behavior

I’m a sucker for color theory. We’ve already published how genders interpret colors and how colors impact buying behavior. If you want to learn more about how our eyes actually detect and interpret color, don’t miss reading Why Our Eyes Need Complementary Color Palette Schemes.

This infographic details the psychology and even the return on investment a company might attain by focusing on the colors they’re utilizing throughout their user experience. Color plays a significant role in psychology and consumer behavior because it can influence our emotions, attitudes, and behaviors in various ways. Colors have the power to evoke different emotions and feelings, which can ultimately impact our decision-making and purchasing behaviors.

For example, warm colors like red, orange, and yellow can create a sense of excitement and urgency, which can stimulate impulsive buying behavior. On the other hand, cool colors like blue, green, and purple can create a sense of calmness and relaxation, which can be more effective in promoting high-end products or services.

Additionally, cultural and personal associations with colors can also influence consumer behavior. For instance, red may symbolize good luck and fortune in some cultures, while it may represent danger or warning in others.

In marketing and advertising, the use of color can be a powerful tool to capture attention, convey messages, and create brand recognition. Companies often invest in branding research to determine the best colors to use in their logos, packaging, and advertisements to appeal to their target audience and communicate their brand values.

Color Temperature, Hue, and Saturation

Colors are often described as warm or cool based on their perceived visual temperature. Warm colors are those that evoke a sense of warmth, energy, and excitement, often associated with things like fire, heat, and sunlight. The main factors that make colors warm are:

  1. Color Temperature: Warm colors are those that have a high color temperature, meaning that they appear to be closer to red or yellow on the color spectrum. For example, orange and red are considered warm colors because they have a higher color temperature than blue or green. Warm colors like red, orange, and yellow tend to be associated with excitement, energy, and urgency, and can be effective in stimulating impulsive buying behavior. Cool colors like blue, green, and purple tend to be associated with calmness, relaxation, and trust, and can be more effective in promoting high-end or luxury products.
  2. Hue: Colors that have warm hues tend to be perceived as warmer. For example, yellow and orange have warm hues, while green and blue have cooler hues. Different hues can be associated with different emotions and qualities, and can impact the way that consumers perceive a brand or product. For example, blue is often associated with trust and reliability, while green is associated with health and nature. Brands can use these associations to their advantage by selecting colors that align with their brand values and messaging.
  3. Saturation: Colors that are highly saturated or vivid tend to be perceived as warmer. For example, a bright red or orange is more likely to be perceived as warm than a muted or desaturated version of the same color. Highly saturated or vivid colors can be attention-grabbing and can create a sense of urgency or excitement, which can be effective in promoting sales or limited-time offers. However, too much saturation can also be overwhelming or garish, so it’s important to use saturation strategically.
  4. Context: The context in which a color is used can also influence whether it is perceived as warm or cool. For example, red can be perceived as warm when used in a design that evokes passion or excitement, but it can also be perceived as cool when used in a design that evokes danger or warning.

Overall, a combination of color temperature, hue, saturation, and context can all contribute to whether a color is perceived as warm or cool. Warm colors tend to evoke a sense of energy, excitement, and warmth, while cool colors tend to evoke a sense of calmness and relaxation.

Colors And The Emotions They Evoke

  • Red – Energy, war, danger, strength, rage, vigor, power, determination, passion, desire, and love.
  • Orange – Excitement, fascination, happiness, creativity, summer, success, encouragement, and stimulation
  • Yellow – Joy, sickness, spontaneity, happiness, intellect, freshness, joy, instability, and energy
  • Green – Growth, harmony, healing, safety, nature, greed, jealousy, cowardice, hope, inexperience, peace, protection.
  • Blue – Stability, depression, Nature (The sky, the ocean, water), tranquility, softness, depth, wisdom, intelligence.
  • Purple – Royalty, luxury, extravagance, dignity, magic, wealth, mystery.
  • Pink – Love, romance, friendship, passiveness, nostalgia, sexuality.
  • White – Purity, faith, innocence, cleanliness, safety, medicine, beginnings, snow.
  • Grey – Dreariness, gloom, neutrality, decisions
  • Black – Solemnity, death, fear, evil, mystery, power, elegance, the unknown, elegance, grief, tragedy, prestige.
  • Brown – Harvest, wood, chocolate, dependability, simplicity, relaxation, the outdoors, filth, disease, disgust

If you’d really like to dig into how colors affect your brand, be sure to read Dawn Matthew from Avasam’s article which provides an incredible amount of detail on how colors impact users and their behavior:

Colour Psychology: How Colour Meanings Affect Your Brand

Here’s an infographic from Best Psychology Degrees on the psychology of color that details a ton of information on how colors translate to behaviors and outcomes!

Psychology of Color

Douglas Karr

Douglas Karr is CMO of OpenINSIGHTS and the founder of the Martech Zone. Douglas has helped dozens of successful MarTech startups, has assisted in the due diligence of over $5 bil in Martech acquisitions and investments, and continues to assist companies in implementing and automating their sales and marketing strategies. Douglas is an internationally recognized digital transformation and MarTech expert and speaker. Douglas is also a published author of a Dummie's guide and a business leadership book.

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