Science has long recognised that colour affects our behaviour and the way we feel. After all, itís the first thing we register and that we use to help assess the things around us, such as whether certain foods, such as blue ones, might be poisonous, for example.
Science has long recognised that colour affects our behaviour and the way we feel. After all, it’s the first thing we register and that we use to help assess the things around us, such as whether certain foods, such as blue ones, might be poisonous, for example.
To understand these responses, we need to look at how colour works. Essentially, when the light reflected from coloured objects strikes the retinas in our eyes, the wavelengths are converted into electrical impulses. These pass into the part of the brain that rules our hormones and endocrine system, which are instrumental in regulating our moods. Unconsciously, then, our eyes and bodies constantly adapt to these stimuli, influencing our impulses and perceptions.
While the scientific study of colour is as old as time, the study of colour’s effects on our psyche is only about a century young.
Even until only about two decades ago, the common perception was that, because our response to colour is subjective, it must also be unpredictable. Why, for example, did people respond differently to the same shade?
It was leading UK colour psychologist Angela Wright who, by studying colour harmonies and the often unconscious thought processes related to them, developed a means of predicting our responses to colour with remarkable accuracy.
It’s called the Colour Affects System and works on two levels: The psychological properties of each of the 11 basic colours; and the roles that variations in tones, hues and tints can play in achieving a desired psychological effect. A key factor in this, Angela recognised, is that it is not one colour that triggers our responses, but a combination of the millions of colours, hues, tones and tints the human eye can distinguish. For example, a grey sky over a summer cornfield will evoke quite a different emotion than will a grey winter’s sky downtown. Therefore, there are no wrong colours per se, but different colour schemes do prompt different responses.
To apply colour psychology successfully, Angela also recognised the need to match the individual’s personality with the appropriate tonal colour family. There are four of these, each reflecting nature’s patterns, and every shade can be categorised into one of them. Once we have made this connection, she says, we can create colour combinations that will help turn our homes into spaces that reflect and support the personalities of those living there. Even if very different characters live together in one house, the right colour palette can ease tensions and help create harmony.
The four personality types and their tonal families
To find out what season you are, try out the Resene Colour personality game