Motivation and emotion/Book/2016/Changing mood through colour
How can colour be used to change people's mood?
In the Pixar movie Inside out, the main characters are the emotions inside a young girls head. Joy, Anger, Disgust, Fear and Sadness. All the characters are different colours, chosen to represent that emotion. Yellow for joy and happiness, red for anger and frustration, green for disgust and attitude, purple for fear and nervousness and blue for sadness and depression. How did they deiced what colour to put with what emotion? What makes these colours represent these emotions? And more importantly, do these colour have the ability to actually alter our mood, or is it just us being influenced by these colours ?
What do you feel when you see the colour red? Anger, love, or maybe warm or lucky? What about green? Grey? Purple? Take the following quiz to see how your opinion stacks up against the research.
What emotion/s do you think of when you see the following?
These results came from one single study (Gilbert, A., Fridlund, A., and Lucchina, L., 2016). You may agree with them, or disagree but there are no correct answers when it comes to interpreting colours.
Colour is simply (or complexly) "The property possessed by an object of producing different sensations on the eye as a result of the way it reflects or emits light." (Augarde, A. J., The Oxford Dictionary, 1981). In this chapter we will discuss weathercolour actually changes your mood, how colour effects people on a physical level, what colour can make a person do and if colour effects a people differently depending on personality type.
Effecting affect or strange changes in mood? 
We all know what emotions are linked to certain colours, and these links are fairly consistent among the population. Like the creators of Inside out, most people think of joy or happiness when they see yellow or of disgust and envy when they see green. But to what extent are these colours actually changing a persons mood? can they go from happy to sad, simply by sitting in a yellow room or will they just be slightly happier for a little while ?
To understand weathercolour can change a persons mood or if it merely effecting the emotional state, one must first understand the difference between affect and mood. These two concepts are relatively similar, but differences in duration and cause make them individual terms. Affect and mood both refer the feeling of emotions, however, mood lasts longer than affect (hours to days compared to minutes or hours) for example: you have failed a test and for the next day or two you feel sad or you are in a bad mood, but during the second day you find $10 on the ground and for an hour or so, you experience a positive affect (happiness) before returning to a bad mood (Difference Between Mood and Affect, 2010). Another difference is that mood can have no particular cause of onset, say you feel great when you wake up one day but for no real reason. Whereas affect has a cause, such as shock when finding a spider in your shoe, the emotion has a cause of on set and doesn't last more than a few minutes (Difference Between Mood and Affect, 2010) With those definitions in mind, we are able to go forth and investigate weather colour affects the temporary state of mind, or an enduring mood.
As the terms mood (enduring) and affect (short term) are often used interchangeably, one must look closely at the research to determine which one it is.
One study suggested that warm tones of red would evoke a positive mood, tested on the The Profile of Mood States (POMS) (Albert, A., 2007). However, what they actually found was that people measured high on negative moods when seeing warm reds as opposed cool or neutral reds. And another , measuring fatigue and oppression (also on the POMS) found that the colour blue could reduce these feelings (Sakuragi, S., and Sugiyama, Y., 2011). But wait, are these studies showing a change in affect or mood? More likely affect, as the effects of the colours were measured instantaneously after being presented.
So how would mood be measured in response to colour? One study looked at pregnant rats and the neurotransmitters associated with depression (Khosravi, A., and Faryadian, S., 2015). Interestingly, mother ratexposed to red and black gave birth to baby's that were prone to depressed moods, where as mother rats exposed to green had baby's there were not prone to depressed moods. Even though this is preliminary animal based research, it appears to indicate that colour could impact weather a baby will be born with a predisposition to depression, and if colour could lead to a predisposition to depression it could also lead other illnesses.
Altered neurotransmitter levels is pretty conclusive in showing that colour can have a psychicaleffect on the brain. Even though this is a study on rats, it is worth thinking about the implications of this information . And this physical change in the brain is definitely a change in mood.
Now, we know that colour potentlyhas the ability to change levels of neurotransmitters, what about other psychical aspects? Jacobs & Hustmyer, (1974) looked into the effects of four primary colors (Red, green, blue, yellow) on three psychological aspects, Galvanic Skin Response (GSR), heart rate and respiration. Although they didn't find any changes in heart rate or respiration when participants were exposed to certain colours, they did find a changes in GSR.
"Galvanic Skin Response is the change in the skins electrical conductivity in response to emotional stimuli" (Dictionary.com, 2016) (the thing that lie detectors pick up on). From this study, we can see that colour is classified as an emotional stimuli, however it is unclear weatherthis emotional stimuli has an enduring effect (creating a mood) or is merely altering the affect. As these results were taken right away, it is unclear and one can only speculate weather the response is as temporary as the GSR or if the GSR is the start to an enduring mood.
Having our skin react to a simple block of colour is pretty amazing and with further research, this could have some interesting applications. Imagine a story told only with blocks of colour, manipulating your bodily sensations so you feel the story, not see it or low blood pressure being raised by sitting the person in a certain colour room.
Harder, better, faster, stronger
Do YOU want to be more productive in the workplace? Work HARDER for the same amount of money? Here are 10 easy tips to increase YOUR productivity during the day.
Sounds like something out of a cheap magazine, and yet, along with changing mood for the long run and changing your body on a physical level, colour can also alter how productive you are. Productive in this setting means how comfortably and efficiently a person can get work done.
Have you ever wonderwhy offices are normally a cream/beige colour? Its not a lack of creativity, but a well researched idea. A few studies have found that bright, strong colours can lead to an increased level of arousal, leading to a decrease in productivity (Kwallek, N., Lewis, C., Lin-Hsiao, J., and Woodson, H., 1996; Küller, R., Mikellides, B., and Janssens, J., 2009.) As can be seen in Figure 1, there is an ideal level of arousal for productivity, too much arousal or too little arousal results in a lower level of productivity.
Other factors interacting with colour, such as high/low demand tasks and gender of participant also had an interesting effect.
In an experiment using three coloured monitors and either a high or low demand task, a unusual pattern was found. For a high demand task, red decreased performance, but with a low demand task, blue decreased performance (Beige, the third colour, had no changes) (Hatta, T., Yoshida, H., Kawakami, A., and Okamoto, M., 2002). What is interesting about this is that the interpretation of colour changes with arousal levels. More over, the colour blue, sometimes associated with calm and rest, decreases performance on an already calm take , possibly because a low task results in a low arousal level and the blue monitor calmed the participant even more putting them in a unproductive level of arousal. Same scenario for red and having it associated with anger and frustration .
There is also a difference between males and females in colour preferences for productivity. Its has been shown that females are more likely to score feelings of depression in low saturated rooms (White or gray) where asmales will score more feelings of depression in high saturated rooms (Pink and orange). Yet, the same study found that a majority of the participants would prefer to work in a white or beige office (Kwallek, N., Lewis, C., Lin-Hsiao, J., & Woodson, H.,1996). Given that the study had an equal number of male and female participants,its is rather unusual that the same females that felt depressed in a a white or beige room would still prefer to work in an office of that colour. A potential ares for further research perhaps?
With all this being said, it is important to remember that there are many other factors accounting for productivity and the reaction to colors, such as environmental sensitivity and length of exposure to the colour.(Kwallek, N., Soon, K., & Lewis, C., 2007). Perhaps take some time to consider some other factor that may not have been taken into account in these studies.
As we can see, colour can have quite an impact on us, from changing moods, altering physical states and increasing productivity. They can all be seen as types of mood change. Changing the psychicalstate of the body through emotional stimuli is definitely a type of a mood change and so is the change in productivity, as it depends on arousal levels. Yet one of the most important things to remember that that colour is perceived differently by each person. This perception can be altered by many things, physical differences in rods and cones (colour blindness or damage), cultural upbringing, and personal traits can all change the meanings and therefore the feelings behind a colour. Research into the effect colours can have on mood and other aspects of life are just beginning, with more time and effort into the area, the uses of the information found could be limitless, from personalized colour themes in your office to maximize productivity to colour therapy for mood disorders, anything could be possible .
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K2K8pPWaGSU} What do colors mean?, 25 January, 2016
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K2K8pPWaGSU} What do colors mean?, 25 January, 2016
Difference Between Mood and Affect. (2010). Difference Between. Retrieved 22 October 2016, from http://www.differencebetween.net/language/difference-between-mood-and-affect/
Galvanic skin response. (n.d.). Dictionary.com Unabridged. Retrieved October 23, 2016 from Dictionary.com website http://www.dictionary.com/browse/galvanic-skin-response
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