Sunday, April 13, 2014

Can color effect mood? - By Elizabeth Giammarco

Although the entire concept of color is not fully understood, one thing is for certain -- we are programmed to see it. As humans, we have an abundance of cones that congregate at the back of the eye in an area called the fovea. Cones are responsible for our detecting color. We also perceive gray scale (absence of color) because of rods that are located at the periphery of the eye. Simply stated: When darkness occurs, the rods are stimulated and when it is daylight, the cones are in charge. We not only see color but see it fully unlike cats and dogs that can perceive color albeit probably more in muted pastel type vibrations. Our visual field for color goes from wavelengths of about 400, which are the deep blues or purples hue on the color scale to 700 which are the reds. Humans cannot see the wavelengths that some insects and animals are capable of seeing, which are located on the infrared side or the ultraviolet side of the spectrum. When looking at a rainbow, one can see the wavelengths from 400 to 700. But what does all this have to do with mood. 

Except for the rare person who only sees in gray scale because there is an absence of cones or because the cones don’t work, most of us are surrounded by color that is represented in a multitude of shades and hues. Color is experienced universally and it is this global perception of color that might influence mood. Whether particular colors determine moods depends on several factors: Culture, gender, age, mental state, etc. For instance, with some in the Chinese culture, the color red represents happiness and good fortune. In parts of Africa, it is the color for mourning and in western culture. It can represent danger, aggression, love or energy. 

Red is considered by some to be an active color and one that is studied a great deal. It is a color that is said to motivate people to move, which is why the idea of having red seating in a diner was one of getting customers in and out quickly, thereby assuring a greater amount of revenue for the owner. However, red has also been seen as an aggressive color or one that is more inclined to depict an area of immoral values such as “red light” districts. In terms of gender and color, when the color red was studied at a Northeastern University, it was found that males reported more profound emotional response to the color than females did. Red also was thought to be more of a negative color for males in some instances as well. 

The color pink has been assumed as having a calming effect. In fact, some years ago when I worked at a large city hospital, one of the rooms in the emergency department had been painted pink. The idea was that when individuals, who were either under the influence of substances or highly agitated, would be admitted, the pink room would help them to calm down. However, the 100 mg. of Thorazine given I.M. that was administered shortly after one’s arrival might have had more to do with the subsequent state of tranquility than the pink hue did. 

Some data has shown where several state correctional institutions have incorporated not just pink cells but also pink clothing such as t-shirts and undershorts. Although there have been reports that there was a decrease in criminal activity, hostile moods, and lower recidivism rates by some, others have noted no changes at all. Today, pink is associated with femininity and gentleness; however, not all females respond positively to the color pink as might be thought and not all males respond to it negatively either. In fact, up until the early 1900s, there wasn’t any distinction between colors for either gender as both wore all.
Yellow is warm and bright, which also adds to feelings of well-being and motivation; whereas, greens, lavenders, and blues are cool colors and depending on whether they are pastel or bold can have a tranquil effect or one that is more deterministic. Dark blue clothing represents stability and professionalism and are the choice when interviewing for a job. Lilac, lavender, and pastel shades of purple can have a calming effect on the body and mind for some. 

The color blue has been researched for military, police work and air traffic control as well as for mental and physical health. One study found that a blue night light was more disturbing and led to feelings of depression especially in people who had to sleep during the day because of working at night. The same study suggested that a red night light was the better for mood and sleep with no light being best of all.
Well, then, what does this all mean for those who want to know which colors are the best for moods. The answer is simply whatever works for the individual. It seems to be a matter of choice. For instance, I have found that some of the males who I encounter feel more relaxed with light blues, lavenders, and pinks and do not like reds, yellows or oranges – although they probably wouldn’t admit it to their buddies. So for some males (females too), when dealing with feelings of agitation, frustration, or anxiety, the suggestion is to try the aforementioned colors to see if they work for them. 

Personally, I am not a fan of the color pink. It is not soothing for me at all. However, I do find that light green and blue have calming effects and bright yellows allow me to be motivated to meet goals, which is why I should probably paint my computer room that color so I can get writings in on time. Whatever, your choice of color, realize that it can change. As a young person, one might love the excitement of red cars and clothing. However, when that same person reaches middle-adulthood, the dark blue car and light blue apparel may be the color for the day. Just revel in the colors that we are capable of seeing. It is our tapestry of life.

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