Dr. Alexander Schauss, Ph.D., director of the American Institute for Biosocial Research in Tacoma Washington once published findings on how Baker-Miller Pink calmed aggressive prisoners. Apparently, when violent prisoners were placed in Baker-Miller Pink/Drunk-tank Pink (BUBBLEGUM PINK!) cells, their angry, antagonistic and anxiety ridden behaviours were suppressed. According to Dr. Schauss, "Even if a person tries to be angry or aggressive in the presence of pink, he can't. The heart muscles can’t race fast enough. It’s a tranquilizing color that saps your energy. Even the color-blind are tranquilized by pink rooms." However, this amazing colour therapy only lasts till the person has calmed down; it does not have significant long term effects in maintaining a calm state of mind
On a side note, our behaviours are usually linked with emotions as our feelings are usually the motivations for our actions. This is so as all the different parts of our nervous system are inter-connected. No individual part is capable of eliciting a reason without being stimulated or stimulating other parts. This creates a specific response pattern in humans, of which is never at rest. Thus, it is justified for these two human characteristics to be used interchangeably in this topic.
The cited study proves that colours do have undeniable effects on our emotions, even extreme ones. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (adversary of Newton’s theory of white light being made up of rainbow colours) in his ‘Theory of Colours’ (1810) outlined the "Effect of colour with reference to moral associations" believing colors produced not only an effect on the mind, but that they acted specifically to "produce definite, specific states in the living organ." Color consultants (practitioners of colour psychology) also cite an increasing number of studies linking colors to specific responses. One study found that weight lifters have more powerful performances when in BLUE rooms and another study found that babies cry more frequently in YELLOW rooms. This has led some colour consultants to believe that the colour choices in our environments can have significant impacts on our emotions and performance. For instance, RED is a common motivator, GREEN evokes a sense of warmth and PURPLE and ORANGE are linked to spirituality.
One student of color, Howard Ketchum, declares: "Whether we realize it or not, color can lower our sales resistance, make us feel hot or cold, gloomy or gay. It can affect a man's personality and mental outlook quite as definitely as a sleepless night, a cold in the head or a good square meal.”
Ketchum told the story of workers in a factory in New York who complained that they were straining their backs lifting black metal boxes. Over the weekend, the ingenious foreman had the boxes repainted pale green. The following Monday several of the workmen were heard to remark about the ease of lifting 'these new lightweight boxes."
Studies had shown that dark-colored objects will almost invariably be adjudged heavier than light-colored objects. The average person is inclined to underestimate the temperature of a blue-room and overestimated the temperature of a red room.
Green and red seem to have psychological effects. Dr. Gilbert Brighouse of Occidental College in Los Angeles recorded the muscular responses of several hundred students under the influence of red and green lights. He found that their reactions were faster than usual under a red light, while green light actually retarded their reactions.
Most people tend to overestimate the passage of time under the influence of red and underestimated it under the influence of green or blue. This was shown through experiments with two groups of salesmen. The first group, without watches, was ushered into a red room for a conference. After it had ended, they were asked to guess how long it lasted. The average estimate was six hours, when the meeting had lasted just half that time! A similar poll was conducted among a group of salesmen conferring in a light blue room. All thought they had spent less time than they actually had.
The importance of color in business and industry was shown when a Chicago packing house experienced tripled sales after changing the yellow walls of its display rooms. Aware that each colour has its specific after-image, hired color engineers discovered that the yellow created a gray after-image which robbed the meat of its natural redness. Sales leaped after they advised painting the walls green because the contrasting after-image made the meat look redder than ever.
Experiments have also demonstrated that colour is one of the prime factors in the sale of virtually every commodity on the market today. When frozen foods were first launched, they were packaged in ice-green or snow-blue containers with pictures of Eskimos or other Arctic designs. They did not attract the eye of the average housewife, however, until they were re-packaged in warmer colours that suggested the appetizing appearance of the re-heated food
'Studies have shown that the colors surrounding a person can have a profound effect on health, to the point that they may even influence the course of a disease,' says Dr. Richard T.Davis, of the Psychology Department at the University of California, Los Angeles.
A study done with his help also disclosed that blue lighting in a factory made the women look sick, which made them believe they were ill. This led to them staying home more often. After the factory owners painted the walls warm beige, the absenteeism dropped immediately.
The colour theorist Faber Birren has a list of “Modern American Colour Associations” in his book ‘Colour Psychology and Colour Therapy’. He notated the associations of the colour RED as follows in five main categories:
General Appearance: Brilliant, intense, opaque, dry
br> Mental Associations: Hot, fire, head, blood
br> Direct Associations: Danger, Christmas, Fourth of July, St. Valentine’s Mothers’ Day, flag
br> Objective impressions: Passionate, exciting, fervid, active
br> Subjective impressions: Intensity, rage, rapacity, fierceness
Interestingly, the shades or intensities of colours are considered to matter, although research in this area is regrettably in its infancy. Continuing with the example of RED, C.G. Saunder once suggested that people with "dark complexion, eyes, and hair, frequently have poor circulation and need red". He also recommended red light be used for those with goiter, arthritis, dormant kidneys, and that the reddish magenta be ‘prescribed’ for "masculine impotency and feminine apathy."
In Science, Quantum chromodynamics (QCD) is part of the quantum field theory that describes the properties of strong interactions between quarks and between protons and neutrons in quantum theory. Quarks are physical particles that help form the basis of matter. They possess coloured properties, which govern their binding together to form other elementary particles. In English and to people, it simply proves that physiological changes actually take place when we are exposed to colours.
To all those girls out there trying to loose weight, your saviour is here! Blue food has been proven to be the most un-appetizing of all the food colours! Apparently, blue is an appetite suppressant and some weight loss plans suggest putting food on blue plates, or even putting blue lights in refrigerators and dying food blue
The picture below is a delicacy prepared for the annual food party held at the end of the author's color course at the University of Hawaii. It is called "musubi", consisting of rice, a filling and "nori", a seaweed wrapper. It is a traditional Japanese food, but is very popular in Hawaii (in the original state). However, be careful to use only natural colourings.
Another reason for blue being an appetite suppressant is that blue is rare in nature. We do not see blue meats or vegetables, only blueberries or the occasional blue potato. However, our bodies are not conditioned to deject blue foods. Furthermore, our primal nature avoids food that is poisonous. A million years ago, when our ancestors foraged for food, blue, purple and black were ‘colour warning signs’ of poisonous food.
Our medication often comes in different colours, but do they mean anything?
At face value, colour helps us distinguish between medications. As testimony to the serious nature of this issue, The New York Times called patients’ failure to take medications as prescribed the world's ‘other drug problem’.
This is especially relevant for the elderly who get confused when they take various medications, most of which are small white tablets. The US Senate's Aging and Youth Committee reported that the typical Medicare beneficiary uses an average of 18 to 24 prescriptions a year. Researchers have also found that patients who took more drugs on a daily basis preferred bright pill colors. Truly, colour and color combinations are a powerful way to create emotional appeal and reduce medical errors.
Also, patients respond best when the colour of the medication corresponds with the intended results of the medication. For example, calm blue for a good night's sleep and dynamic red for speedy relief.
A similar benefit is rooted in the colour associations with smell, temperature and taste. Even early civilizations such as the Romans recognized that people "eat with their eyes" as well as their palates. As proof, butter has been colored yellow as far back as the 1300s. Although we do not ‘eat’ pills to enjoy their tastes, we do taste and swallow them. For example, a blue pill is cool, an orange pill, hot.
As a result, drug companies are leaving nothing to chance. The colour and shape of the pills, and the names and imagery used to sell products are heavily researched and tested, much like the drugs themselves.
As mentioned earlier, our bodies’ sensory pathways in the nervous system are inter-connected. Thus, in some situations, a crossover from one pathway to the other occurs. Seeing the yellow-green may evoke taste sensations of sourness; pink may evoke sweetness. Seeing the colour grey may evoke olefactory (smell) sensations of smokiness. All of us can do this to a certain extent.
There is an extraordinary sensory condition called Synesthesia, meaning ‘to perceive together’ in Greek. This phenomenon comes in many varieties-- some synesthetes hear, smell, taste or feel pain in color. Others taste shapes, and some perceive written digits, letters and words in color. Some, who possess what researchers call "conceptual synesthesia," see abstract concepts, such as units of time or mathematical operations, as shapes projected either internally or in the space around them. And many synesthetes experience more than one form of the condition.
The condition is not well known, since many synesthetes fear the social stigma of this unusual ability. Often, people with synesthesia describe having been driven to silence after finding out that they were ‘not normal’.
To scientists, synesthesia is an intriguing problem. Studies have confirmed that the phenomenon is biological, automatic and unlearned. The condition runs in families and is more common among women than men. But until recently, researchers could only speculate about the causes of synesthesia.
Today, modern behavioral, brain-imaging and molecular genetic tools can possibly uncover the mechanisms that drive synesthesia and to better understand how the brain normally organizes perception and cognition.
Research suggests that about one in 2,000 people are synesthetes, and some experts suspect that as many as one in 300 people have some variation of the condition. Synesthetes include author Vladimir Nabokov, composer Olivier Messiaen and physicist Richard Feynman. The most common form of synesthesia is believed to be coloured hearing: sounds, music or voices seen as colours. Most synesthetes report that they see such sounds internally, in "the mind's eye". Minorities see visions as if projected outside the body, but they are usually near, within an arm’s length.
Some synesthetes experience sensory overload when they become exhausted from over-stimulation. However, this is not a problem and most synesthetes value what they consider a bonus sense.
"If you ask synesthetes if they'd wish to be rid of it, they almost always say no," says Simon Baron-Cohen, PhD, who studies synesthesia at the University of Cambridge. "For them, it feels like that's what normal experience is like. To have that taken away would make them feel like they were being deprived of one sense."