How Colors Can Influence Us

By: Celine Chin

Colors are everywhere, and some people are able to see them while others aren’t. For those of us that can see them, how do they affect us? The influence that colors have on us sparks much conversation, especially since not everybody experiences the same things while looking at the same colors. There is also little scientific evidence that suggests that colors will trigger specific responses among those that can see them.

However, the reason the influence of colors is still discussed a lot may be that each person has their own preferences, experiences, and cultural beliefs that may affect how they react to seeing different colors.

Some retinal ganglion cells send signals to a part of the brain called the hypothalamus when there is light present. Since the hypothalamus is in charge of releasing certain hormones that control things like body temperature, sleep and hunger, this means that colors and light can have the potential to affect things such as our moods, heart rates, and alertness.

For example, there is data that proves that being exposed to bright light of short wavelengths before sleeping can make us more alert, resulting in a poorer quality of sleep. This is also why many are concerned about the use of devices such as tablets in the nighttime; they emit blue light that can prevent our bodies from releasing melatonin, a hormone that promotes sleep. Not getting good sleep can contribute to conditions such as obesity and heart disease. Research also suggests that light in the color of red raises heart rate, while blue lowers heart rate.

Colors are often associated with other things; for instance, blue is associated with peace and calmness and red is associated with things such as passion and anger. These associations are often used in stores to influence customers.

An example would be fast food restaurants, such as McDonald’s, that use logos with the colors red and yellow. The color red is associated with desire while the color yellow is associated with contentment and comfort. As a result, you might pass by McDonald’s and start feeling like you need to get some fast food; these colors remind us of the satisfaction of eating fast food with friends and family.

However, it isn’t just the fast food industry that utilizes color to influence consumers. Restaurants such as Subway that promote healthier food often use earthy colors, such as green, as symbols for healthy foods.

Colors also have the potential to influence our purchases as well. Research has shown that some consumers also consider whether the color of a product is appropriate in regard to what the product actually is. For instance, if consumers purchase Harley-Davidson motorcycles to feel tough, there’s a good chance that a glittery version wouldn’t sell too well.

However, colors can be associated with more than one thing as well. An example could be brown, which is often associated with ruggedness. Brown can be used in different contexts such as in chocolate commercials, to make us feel hungry, or by landscaping businesses to represent the earth.

Our genders can also influence the preferences of color we have. Cultural beliefs as well as our environments can be factors in determining what colors are appropriate for each gender, which in turn can influence our individual preferences of color. For example, nowadays pink is often seen as an appropriate color for girls, while blue is seen as appropriate for boys. That is why baby clothes for females are more often pink than blue, and baby clothes for males are more often blue than pink.

Overall, although the responses we have to certain colors won’t always be the same, they do have an impact on a lot of us that can see them and can affect the way we perceive things as well as the decisions we make.


Q: Why is the influence of colors a topic that is very much talked about?