Studies have found that the connection between color and emotion often crosses national boundaries and cultures

Key points

  • The emotional connection of color in most cultures is similar, and when the distance of the country and language are the closest, the connection will be closer.
  • The emotional connection with the color will be affected by touching the color while feeling the emotion.
  • Certain colors have positive or negative associations based on religion or cultural customs.

Color has the ability to evoke or reflect emotions, but does this happen naturally, or do we culturally perceive colors in a certain way? For example, why do we view blue as sadness or red as anger?

A study recently published in the journal Psychological Science Try to determine the origin of the correlation between colors and emotions that we recognize, and whether they are social or psychological structures.

In this study, 4,598 participants from 30 different countries and 22 different languages ​​took their color association test. The first theory is whether we will associate colors with emotions because of environmental factors, such as those colors that we encounter in our emotional experience. It looks like someone will turn red when they are angry.

According to the second theory, “colors and emotions may be arbitrarily related in a person’s cultural language, history, religion, or folklore.”If the second is true, the result should vary from location to location.

Measuring color and emotion

To test these hypotheses, study participants used the Geneva Mood Wheel (an empirical tool for measuring feelings and emotions) and were instructed to choose which emotion to choose for each color. However, the actual colors do not exist, but words such as blue, white, and red. The research results support the combination of the two theories, but are conducive to cultural connections.

Most interviewees have similar emotional associations for the 12 colors, but these connections are more obvious between countries and languages ​​that are geographically closer.

This can explain why English speakers are familiar with the expression of green and jealousy, because it has existed in English for centuries and can be traced back to Shakespeare’s works such as Othello.Nevertheless, certain opinions, such as the association of red with love and anger, or brown has a very mild emotional response, are common.

Cultural differences in color choice

The study pointed out that the importance of color varies in different cultures.For example, in the United States, black is the standard for funerals and white is the standard for weddings. However, in China, white is often worn at funerals and red at weddings.

Amaira Din is a South Asian wedding planner and she often needs to understand customs and trends. She explained: “I am a wedding planner. In New York City, most of my clients are evenly distributed between American and South Asian couples, so I have to be sensitive to the cultural significance that certain colors may have.” She describes Planning around the black dress of American brides can mean bad luck and bad omen (for example, there are dark clouds at your wedding).


In American weddings, red is also considered a taboo color, and South Asian brides should wear red. Red is a tribute to Hinduism…it symbolizes luck, prosperity and fertility.

— Amara Ding

Din explained that red is another shocking color seen in American weddings. “Red is also considered a taboo color in American weddings, and South Asian brides should wear red. Red is for Hinduism. A tribute…it symbolizes luck, prosperity and fertility.”

Color selection in the working environment

The connection between color and emotion makes color selection a science.PsyM environmental psychologist Lee Chambers said that even in the workplace, color associations are extremely important.

He explained: “I explore how to use color in the work environment to increase productivity and happiness. From a psychological point of view, it is obvious that a person’s cultural appreciation and personal preference for color will affect the effect of color on their mood. ”

Chambers discussed how blue, red, yellow, and green affect office culture. He said: “I find that environments that use blue tones tend to reduce irritation and increase productivity and concentration.I have seen a decline in reported creativity, and reportedly increased employee confidence. In addition, the happiness index increases, contrary to the cultural blue of sad narratives in some cultures. ”

Lee Chambers, Psychology

From a psychological point of view, it is obvious that an individual’s cultural appreciation and personal preference for color will affect the effect of color on their emotions.

— Lee Chambers, PsyM

Red can trigger positive and negative emotions, which makes sense, because it symbolizes love and passion, as well as danger and anger. Chambers reported that, based on his observations, “the red environment is very stimulating and generates a certain level of energy, which increases agitation and volatility, and makes an employee mention the fact that the red wall makes him feel aggressive.”

Chambers also reported that yellow can improve creativity and learning ability, but can make eyes tired after a period of time. He also explained that green tones are common in his works. “The green environment is an important part of my work, and the integration of nature in the workplace is an important driving factor. We can see more shades of green than any other color.” This is most likely due to the reported growth and regeneration Feel.

What this means to you

No matter which language you speak or which country you are from, a certain color may cause an emotional reaction. Pay attention to the feelings that certain colors give you, and consider incorporating them into your life in new ways to improve your mood or promote positive associations.