The Science Of Colors & Cozy
Today we’re going to be talking about the psychology of color. If you’re just here for the quick answer to the title “Which color is the coziest color in the world?” I don’t want to make you read the whole post for the answer, so here it is:
Studies have shown that cool colors like blue, green, purple, and white encourage relaxation. Since relaxation is found in the definition of cozy, I think it’s fair to say that blue, green, purple, and white are the coziest colors in America at least. Different countries and cultures prefer different colors though, so this is in America. How a color makes us feel depends on gender, age, past experiences, and culture.
Color psychology is a fascinating subject. There is so much that goes into it, and while studies have shown that there are general color preferences, it’s not “black and white.” It also depends on a lot of different factors. Gender, age, whether we’re warm or cold, and cultural background are some of them. Lighting also plays a significant role, since the light can change how we perceive the area around us, and the way colors look.
See Also: Best Giant Cozy Chunky Knit Blanket
A study done in the United States showed that 35% of Americans prefer blue over any other color. It is followed by green (16%), purple (10%) and red (9%). That already tells us that blue is a cozy color, right? People didn’t choose a color that they don’t like or make them uncomfortable, but one that they like because it makes them feel something, relaxed, possibly cozy? Well, there is more to it than that.
Now, let’s talk a little bit about the psychology of color. We won’t go too in-depth, but I will try to cover the tip of the research that has been done and theories that have come out of it. If you want a more in-depth exploration of colors and their meanings, I recommend reading Leatrice Eiseman’s book Color – Messages & Meanings.
The Psychology of Color
Are you here because you want help with deciding what color to paint a specific room in your home? If so, why is that? What makes the color matter so much, can’t you just pick your favorite color and be done with it? Well, it’s because color makes us feel emotions. You could choose your favorite color and paint every single wall in your house with it, but the fact is that even if one is your favorite, there might be a better choice for a specific room if you want whoever that enters the room to feel a particular emotion.
Colors get their meanings for each person based on several factors — experience, culture, and context are three of them. Before all of these happen, evolution and gender also have a say, but we’ll get to that later.
Experiences influence the meaning of a color for each of us. This experience can be either good or bad. Everything you do and see in life will unknowingly form your opinion of a color. It can be as simple as working a job you can’t stand in an office with green walls, will stop you from painting your walls at home green.
What culture you’re in will influence the meaning as well. As I mentioned in the intro, blue is America’s favorite color. However, in East Asia, blue is seen as a cold color associated with evil and sinister behavior. So if you travel to a different part of the world, not only will the culture most likely be different, but the meanings of each color will as well.
Context is also important when talking about the meaning of a color. A bright red flower can be stunning and calming, while a bright red F on a test can have the opposite effect on us. In what context you see the color, will affect the emotions you feel.
What Color Makes Us Feel What?
There are so many factors that change how each of us feels about a specific color. Studies have given us broad meanings and associations of every color though, so let’s see what each color usually is associated with. Then we’ll go over different factors that probably determined how you felt about color before you were old enough to think on your own. Remember, the studies done on color psychology that we talk about today are based on western culture.
The information below comes from Nick Kolenda’s article about color psychology.
Red – Anxiety, Arousing, Daring, Dominant, Energy, Excitement, Health, Life, Love, Passion, Power, Protection, Spirited, Stimulating, Strength, Up-To-Date
Orange – Abundance, Arousing, Comfort, Daring, Excitement, Extraversion, Fun, Happiness, Lively, Security, Sensuality, Spirited, Warmth
Yellow – Arousing, Cheerful, Confidence, Creativity, Excitement, Extraversion, Friendliness, Happiness, Optimism, Self-Esteem, Sincerity, Smiley, Spirited
Green – Calm, Comfort, Equilibrium, Harmony, Health, Hope, Nature, Outdoorsy, Peace, Prosperity, Relaxation, Security, Senerity, Soothing, Tender
Blue – Calm, Comfort, Competence, Coolness, Dignified Duty, Efficiency, Intelligence, Logic, Peace, Reflection, Relaxation, Reliability, Security, Serenity, Soothing, Successful, Tender, Tranquility, Trust
Purple – Authenticity, Charming, Dignified, Exclusive, Luxury, Quality, Regal, Sensuality, Sophistication, Spiritual, Stately, Upper Class
Pink – Charming, Cheerful, Feminine, Gentle, Nurturing, Sincerity, Soft, Sophistication, Tranquility, Warmth
Brown – Nature, Outdoorsy, Reliability, Ruggedness, Security, Support, Tough
Black – Dignified, Efficiency, Elegance, Emotional Safety, Glamour, Power, Richness, Ruggedness, Security, Sophistication, Stately, Substance, Tough, Upper Class
White – Calm, Clarity, Cleanness, Down-to-Earth, Happiness, Heavens, Honest, Hygiene, Innocence, Peace, Purity, Serenity, Sincerity, Soothing, Tender
If you are deciding what color to paint a room because of what emotion you want to feel, the associations above for each color is a very general table to look at. The reason it’s not as black and white as this is because other factors will play into how you feel about colors. It’s also important to remember that colors should be appropriate for where it’s going to be used, and that aesthetics matter more than a study about America’s favorite color. There are also more components to a color than its name (hue). Each color has different shades and tints (values), and different levels of saturation (chromas) that changes the brightness and vividness of a color.
When it comes to some additional factors, there are three main theories that researches have proposed have an effect on how we feel, these are:
- Gender Schema Theory
- Ecological Valence Theory
While it’s not as black and white as some research might make it sound, evolution has a say in our color preferences. Back in the day when all the color the human knew was what he saw in nature, a certain color was associated with where it was seen and in what context. A dark shade of blue, for example, was associated with night, since that’s what the sky looked like at night. The night is when you sleep, so the blue shade was associated with passivity. During the day it was bright, so the bright yellow from the sun was associated with arousal.
Gender also made a difference, since women were gatherers. Women gathered red and green fruit which influenced color preferences for future female generations.
Gender Schema Theory
While what gender was doing what a long time ago might still affect us, one thing that researchers believe steers color preferences in today’s society are stereotypes. The stereotypes that often say that boys should be dressed in blue, and girls in pink. What this does to children is that they become drawn to what society tells them to like. So boys will like blue, and girls pink. Part of this is due to the third theory.
Ecological Valence Theory
So based on the two previous theories, how come we all don’t have the same favorite colors? Is it because one mom dressed their kid in purple and another one in green? That’s where the third theory comes in.
The Ecological Valence Theory is about how emotional experiences throughout our whole lives affect how we feel and see colors. This is something that’s not set in stone and can change over the years. It’s related to the second theory above since children have good or bad experiences depending on if they feel like they fit in or not.
Our brains are connected to all our senses, and what you associate a color with is not only what you see and what emotions you have, but can be a sensory experience in more ways, what you smell, hear, taste and feel. There can also be a semantic meaning, words, and places you associate specific colors with. There is so much going on in our brains behind the scenes, which is why I think color psychology on its own is such an interesting subject.
Full disclosure: Nick Kolenda’s post on color psychology is where most of this information came from. If you know a lot about this subject and have something to add or correct, please leave a comment and let me know. Nick’s post can be found here: https://www.nickkolenda.com/color-psychology/