color impact

The Subconscious Signals of Color

The Subconscious Signals of Color

What Is Your Favorite Color?

“What is your favorite color?” Perhaps you have a straight forward go-to answer for this question, and you’re very clear on which color best represents you. To some, it may be a hard choice between a few favorites. I once met a person who said she couldn’t choose her favorite color, so she chose black because it was a mix of all the colors together. Whatever your choice of color, the reason you’re often drawn to it could be because of the conscious and subconscious signals the colors have been hinting at you.

The Psychology of Color

If colors were signaling feelings and behavioral suggestions to us, what would that look like, and what would each color mean? I’ve lightly mentioned it in our Self-Help by Styling Up! as well, but there’s a whole study dedicated to how colors affect our emotions and behavior, and this is called color psychology. Studies prove that influence of color is much more potent than we immediately recognize in our day to day lives. For example, when a group of patients took the same exact pill in different colors, the placebo effects of each pill significantly changed depending on the color. If this is true, then it’s worthwhile to reevaluate the colors you surround yourself with and what they might be signaling to us at subconscious levels.

To start, let’s try and understand some of the universal and general meanings of basic colors.


The color red

Red is the most provocative color for emotions and attracts more attention than any other color. No matter where in the world, biology, cultures, and languages all universally point to the significance of the color red. This is why it’s also the most studied color in science.

Association: Energy, power, courage, strength, determination, confidence, passion, love, desire, danger, anger, stress, blood, and war.
Reactions: Raises heart rate and blood pressure. Enhances metabolism and libido. Increases respiration rate, enthusiasm, energy, and confidence.


The color orange

Orange is thought to be an extroverted, adventurous, and joyful color that carries traits from both red and yellow. The social color is often linked with the fruit with the same word, ‘orange,’ and vitamin C.

Association: Excitement, enthusiasm, adventure, vibrance, warmth, rejuvenation, encouragement, social, confident, overbearing, dependent, inexpensive.
Reactions: Increases appetite, socialization, contentment, and oxygen to the brain. Enhances assurance, happiness, confidence, understanding, and senses of activity.


The color yellow

The eye-catching yellow is the brightest color of the visible spectrum often tied to the sun, light, and enlightenment. When the attention-catching traits are overused, it can hinder the positive associations.

Association: Optimism, clarity, energy, enlightenment, joy, intelligence, analytical thinking, creativity, critical, impatient, impulsive, pessimism, jealousy, cowardice, and deception.
Reactions: Increases mental activity, muscle energy, and confidence. Stimulates the nervous system and memory. Enhances communication, vitality, and vision.


The color green

Green is the color we usually see most in nature representing life, renewal, and growth. It is known to be the most restful color for our eyes to view and frequently used in color therapy for its soothing and relaxing effects. Utilizing green in your home interior can help you feel relaxed and refreshed when you come home.

Association: Growth, renewal, balance, calmness, harmony, compassion, hope, fertility, freshness, environment, eco-conscious, health, money, finances, banking, ambition, greed, and mold.
Reactions: Enhances vision, stability, endurance, relaxation, and youthfulness. Alleviates anxiety, depression, and nervousness.


The color blue

Blue is the color of the sky and ocean -the open space in our natural environment where we find tranquility to reduce stress. Also, a popular color choice for corporate logos, suits, and uniforms, such as police outfits. This is because it displays trust, safety, and an image of a calming authority. Blue makes it easier to pursue mentally-strenuous endeavors and can be helpful when studying.

Association: Trust, dependability, stability, confidence, intelligence, sincerity, freedom, tranquility, intuition, imagination, coolness, sensitivity, melancholy, negativity, and sadness.
Reactions: Enhances thought, concentration, rest, and stimulates chemicals that are calming. Slows metabolism, cools temperature and balances self-expression. Suppresses appetite.


The color purple

Purple has a mix of red and blue, holding both cooling and warming properties, depending on how it’s used. In nature, purple is a rare color to see, mostly sighted on flowers considered to be sacred and precious. Purple has commonly symbolized royalty throughout history around the world, and it’s believed that the scarcity of purple in nature contributed to it.

Association: Luxury, royalty, power, nobility, dignity, devotion, independence, wisdom, creativity, ambition, peace, pride, feminine, spirituality, sacred, magic mystery, sadness, and frustration.
Reactions: Calms the mind and nerves. Enhances imagination, creativity, and feelings of spirituality. Increases nurturing tendencies and sensitivity.


The color white

Some may say that white is technically not a true color,  but it’s a shade that contributes to all values of color as lightness. White is still as significant to include on this list because it gives us a feeling that speaks to our psyche, just like all other colors do.

Association: Purity, innocence, light, heaven, faith, brilliance, neutrality, simplicity, cleanliness, new beginnings, possibility, softness, emptiness, isolation, absence, boredom, sterility, and indecision.
Reactions: Increases mental clarity, senses of sophistication, fresh beginnings, and cleanliness. Encourages purification of thoughts and actions. White can affect perceptions of aggression in competitive sports and causes headaches when the white is extremely bright.


The color black

Black, like white, is considered a shade more than a color and adds depth values to all colors. Although frequently associated with darkness, black still has both positive and negative associations that come into play.

Association: Power, authority, formality, seriousness, sophistication, seduction, withheld, mysteriousness, darkness, fear, death, evil, aggression, pessimism, depression, rebellion, endings, and beginnings.
Reactions: Enhances feelings of inconspicuousness, power, potential, possibility, emptiness, gloom, and or aggression. Slimming effect on visual perception. Influences perceived attractiveness and fashionability.

Context and Experience Changes the Meaning of a Color

Beautiful colors

The meaning and reaction to colors on this list are subjective to cultural backgrounds and personal experiences. All colors have both positive and negative implications depending on the context of delivery. An understanding of a color varies widely depending on how we’ve seen the color being used in our environment repeatedly.

Let me give a few examples of how this applies. In Western cultures, white is worn in weddings as a sign of purity. However, in some Eastern cultures, white is worn to funerals. These two occasions evoke a completely different response to the color white, depending on which meaning you feel more accustomed to. Red sends a negative and threatening signal when worn by an opponent in a competitive setting. On the other hand, if red is worn by a person of potential interest, it becomes positive where the attractiveness of a person increases. If you put a lot of yellow in the children’s room because you want to spark creativity and joy for them, beware. Studies show that the intense use of yellow causes babies to cry more.

You may think, “Hm, these findings make the use of color more complex and difficult.” Don’t overthink it. The most important thing is to analyze how these colors make you feel and what they mean to you personally.

Enhance Your Environment Through Intentional Color Use

Use of bright colors

A simple color we choose may say more about how we associate that color in our minds subconsciously. If we learn what feelings each color evokes and how it can change our behavior, then we can use this to our advantage. Make a color scheme change within your home so you can better relax, or coordinate an event with accent colors that hint a fun and social atmosphere. Put a new colored object on your desk for better concentration, or change the colors of your wardrobe. Whatever the choice of execution, a simple color swap can be the one-degree change in trajectory that pushes you towards your next goal.

Image: Unsplash


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