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Psychology of Colour

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18th-May-2018       
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Colour means different things to different parts of human brain. Our cognitive actions are greatly affected by colours. There are two types of cognitive actions. Fast cognitive actions are those which are automatic, beyond the control of our will and reflexive. On the other hand, slow actions require attention, they must be learned and after a lot of practices they become instinctive or automatic. Our brain's this functionality is sometimes used in therapy. There is a medicine called placebo, a coloured pill which has no therapeutic effect on our body but psychological effect. For instance, red pill represents to wake up from sleep, blue pill for putting to sleep, yellow pill is used for treating depression, green pill helps to reduce anxiety and white pill soothing ulcer. But there is an exception because color means different things in different parts of the world. As blue is the colour of national football league of Italy, blue pills energizing men in Italy but causes sleep in women from that place.
In the Armenian earthquake on December 7, 1988, 50,000 people were killed and 70,000 were injured. In the aftermath, 30, 000 children were evacuated to former Soviet Union. There was a rehabilitation center called Aralez, a name evolved from Armenian mythology of a fabled dog with wings who licks the wound of the injured hero so they can recover.
Communications are very important for recovery in this sort of situations. Communication works like a therapy in this context. Severely depressed people perceive the world in less vivid colour, notably in black and white in extreme cases. Some perceives in grey or shades of black when feeling sad.  In the recovery center, children were treated with art therapy, means they were provided with color pencil and paper.
To the care takers utter surprise, children drew in black or white. Even they painted the sun black and the grass as well. When the children were deprived of black pencil and white paper, they refused to draw.  When they healed slowly, the colour returned in few years. The children from the rehab center again started to draw paintings in colour.
Colour black and white can be best described in possible two contexts, competitive and moral. In competitive context black symbolizes aggression and white submission. In moral context, black means evil and white means good. Black coloured sports team appears more dominant than white who appears a bit timid. Black pills also symbolize more potent. Black police uniform means aggression, force, corrupt and mean. This is why riot control police wear black dress. In a word black means authority. Based on that malevolence index is developed.       
So, what is the proper use of black and white? When someone works as a mediator between two parties, he must avoid black and white to evade biasness. Police force engaging in community promotion uses light colour uniform. Non-profit organizations use white. In political campaign, to polarize someone black is used. When presenting food, white plates are used in congruence of cleanliness. White colour based advertises posters are used to gain trust and black are used for get the job done only. To increase sale, salesman should wear white or light dress.   
Red represents aggression and dominance in competitive context, danger and avoidance in general context and status, fitness, power and fertility in female in mating context.
Red dress women are more attractive to men. Also, men wearing red dress are desirable. Specifically, red lips, cheeks and dress attract men most whereas red sports car, tie attract women. The estrogen hormone in women increases blood flow in the skin which make appears them reddish.  
Bill Shankly proved that wearing red color jersey has significant advantage in playfield. According to his instructions, Liverpool football team replaced their old colour with red dress and the players admitted that their performance greatly affected by that colour. Colour red has a definite advantage in sports was first proposed with serious tone in a research paper after 2004 Olympic. In a statistic, it was found out that out of 100 matches of Boxing (56/44), Taekwondo (57/43) and Wrestling (52/48) competitors wearing red dress won most of the time.
In public debate, red tie wearer has advantage; it helps you to look like the winner. Dispute mediator must avoid red painted room as it works against him. In the context of ecommerce website, red page means auction and without red means normal price. So, during sale avoid red background. In many restaurants, waitress wears red uniform to increase the tip by 10 to 15 per cent extra.  In an interview room, red tie can be worn by the interviewee to uphold leadership qualities. On the contrary, if the position is for a team, avoid the red tie which will work as a threat queue. Similarly, if women interviewers are interviewing woman interviewee, chances are that she will be rejected. Exercise room can be painted with red but reading room or where creative tasks are done should not be painted with red. For advertisement, avoid red.    
Yellow is a vibrant colour and widely seen as a notion of happiness. A slight variation of yellow is golden colour which symbolizes positive association. It is also the least popular car color worldwide because this wavelength is not seen very easily. Our eye tends to gaze at short wavelength color naturally. Suicidal patients are drawn to this color often. Vincent Van Gogh drew his last paintings with heavy yellow, a wheat field with crows. In social context, yellow refers health and weakness. In general context, yellow points to happiness and danger whereas in problem solving context yellow helps improving cognitive performance. For example, red colour detergent is considered too strong, yellow colour is too week but blue is considered in between.
There is a connection between skin complexion and male masculinity. Women are more attracted to yellowish skin color male than masculine ones as skin signals health. Yellow skin colour comes from food which contains better carotenoids. But yellow dress is least attractive. Colour intensity and lightness can change meaning. Light yellow colour is the second most reflecting color. In case of exam paper scrutinizing, students who wrote on yellow paper scored best but scored least who wrote on blue or pink paper. Somehow paper colour affects our cognitive performance. Also, people ate and drank twice than the people sitting in any other colour room. It was previously prejudiced that red colour increases our appetite but scientist found it false. It is found in research that room light color affects us greatly. People gathered in red room are most animated whereas yellow room people are most gathered in 2:1 ratio than blue room. Both red and yellow are well appreciated in social activity.
When decorating, light yellow should be placed at the entry way with an emphasis on lighter interior colour. Bright yellow must be used for warning sign. It grabs our attention easily. Exam paper can be yellow but teacher should avoid other colour, especially red and blue. Product package is also congruent with yellow.                 
The word green is of Germanic origin which means grow. Green symbolizes fertility, life and renewal. Green colour is considered in three contexts: problem solving, environmental and general. But before going to the details let us dig up some past.
Green colour is infamous in automobile racing world and industry because of several incidents. There was a green car accident in USA that killed 11 people and injured 10 more back in September 17, 1911. Later, some other green car accidents were heard. Many race car drivers still believe that green brings bad luck.   
Colour green enhances creativity and helps to reduce anxiety. So, seminar rooms, R&D workshops, class rooms can be painted green where creative thinking takes place regularly. Green colour has also an invitation appeal in it thus restaurant wall can be painted green. A group of scientists conducted a research on living hygiene and come up with a hypothesis called Savanah hypothesis. According to the hypothesis, most people prefer to live and work in a savannah type environment, amidst greenery and the most rejected environment was desert. Taking a walk in the nature after a tiring work session helps to reduce mental fatigue. But green provides no problem-solving preferences. Some editors have a common misconception that, books with green cover are never sold. Avoid green if you want more date.  
Blue is also the most popular color in the world. Blue represents poor skin and fertility. Thus, blue t-shirt or dress is least attractive all over the world. Greek poet Homer attributed blue in his literature numerous times passively. He marked sea as gray, wine as dark sea or dark oxen and wool dark as violet which is a variation of blue. In general, context blue means openness and creativity. In social context blue attributes to friendliness and peacefulness. In therapeutic context, blue triggers alertness in day and in night blue means negative health effect.
Blue improves food consumption although some restaurants think red gets the job done. In fact, red signals eat less. Blue with white signal peace. Blue coloured law enforcement officers appear more approachable and friendly. As blue increases alertness, at night blue light should not be used especially in the case of treating insomnia. On the contrary, to battle evening fatigue blue light room can be a good choice. n

(Mohammad Sadat Hussain Rafsanjani, Teacher, North South University)

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