dispelling the confusion over colour psychology

Colour psychology. This opens a new browser window.

I often get asked what is colour psychology exactly. There is definitely a lot of confusion out there with colour association and colour symbolism often being mistaken for colour psychology.  So I thought I would explain the differences to clear up any confusion.

what is colour association?
Colour association is the conscious associations we have to a particular colour, even down to a particular shade. This could be in relation to an event in which you have associated with a memory. For example, you may dislike a certain tone of green because it reminds you of your school uniform and you didn’t enjoy school. It could be you love the colour yellow because it reminds you of your VW beetle when you would go on fun holidays with your family as a child.

Colour association - colour associated with memories. This opens a new browser window.

Colour Association - I have happy memories associated to the colour yellow as it reminds me of fun trips as a child in our yellow beetle | Image: thestreetpeep


what is colour symbolism (colour in culture)?
Colours are understood differently in different cultures because of the meaning those colours have within that culture. Sometimes these have gained symbolic significance over many generations, if not hundreds of years. Often the original reason may no longer be known, slipping into folklore.

Giving meaning or association to a colour is our human way of seeking meaning within our environment, usually formed out of religious beliefs or from nature.

An example of colour symbolism is the colours representing good luck. In China, red relates to fire and energy and has come to symbolise good fortune and good luck. For followers of Islam, green is considered good luck as it was the colour of the Prophet’s robes.

Colour symbolism - China red for good luck. This opens a new browser window.

Colour symbolism - In China red culturally symbolising good luck and good fortune | Image: Weird Asia News


what is colour psychology?
Whilst colour association and colour symbolism are conditioned conscious associations to colour, the psychology of any particular colour is largely unconscious.  And whilst the psychological meaning of any given colour universally holds true, cultural associations may significantly influence colour choices.

Colour is more than just a visual experience; it influences our mood and behaviour. Established research into theories relating to colour and psychology suggest each colour has specific effects that influence us on all levels; mental, emotional and physical.

When we see colours they send unconscious messages in a language that we understand instinctively, the language of emotions. Colour psychology helps us to understand the benefits of using colour consciously.

Colour psychology. This opens a new browser window.

Colour psychology - When light strikes the human eye, the varying wavelengths, via the retina, are converted into electrical impulses. These pass to the hypothalamus which is part of the brain governing our hormones and our endocrine system | Image: Grokfest


Think about how you use colour in your business, your branding, your boutique, office interiors and your uniforms. Which one of these three are you connecting with?

To find out more about the effects colour has on your business brand, products and store interiors, download my free e-book 7 mistakes most business owners make with their branding colours.

Images: VW The Street Peep, Weird Asia News and Grokfest

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One Response to dispelling the confusion over colour psychology

  1. Thanks for explaining this Karen – it is all much clearer now!

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