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Color Psychology 101

color psychology 101

Can the color you wear really affect your mood? Research says yes; color can absolutely affect your mood, behavior and stress levels.

Color specialist Leatrice Eiseman says how colors affect us correlates to that colors behavior in nature. Eiseman has asked thousands of people what they think of specific colors and has found many patterns. She explains, “We have a repository of information about a color. For example, the color blue is almost always associated with blue skies, which when we are children is a positive thing — it means playing outside and fun. Evolutionarily it also means there are no storms to come. This is why it is reminds us of stability and calm.”

She cautions that there are no magic bullet answers, but there are generalities that can be gleaned from decades of research on the patterns of what people think about each color. So, how can you pick the perfect color for each situation? Based on the research, here is your personal color guide:

What Color You Should Make Your Desktop: Green

What color you choose for your desktop and the colors you choose for your website can greatly affect your productivity. The color green is restful for eyes and produces the least amount of eyestrain. This is a good choice for computer desktops if you are in front of a screen for many hours.

What Color to Wear for a Work Out: Orange

Orange is a color of stimulation and enthusiasm. Orange is a nice mix of red’s passion and yellow’s joy. Research has found that orange increases oxygen supply to the brain, produces an energizing effect, and stimulates brain activity.

What Color to Wear on a Date (if you’re a woman): Red

Red is the color of passion and gets blood pumping. Women can wear this to get their date’s heart racing.

What Color to Wear on a Date (if you’re a man): Blue

Blue is the most stable color. Women love seeing stable men. It is also calming and can help relax both you and your date’s nerves.

What to Wear If You Want to Be Seen As Aggressive: Black

Researchers examined statistics from more than 52,000 National Hockey League games and found that teams were penalized more for aggression while wearing black jerseys. (Hockey teams have two color jerseys and switch for home and away games). Interestingly, the NHL in 2003 changed its jersey policy so that home teams had to wear white. The authors of the study compared the sets of data and found that the same teams were assessed significantly more penalties for aggression when they wore the black jerseys than when they wore white.

What Colors You Should Paint Your Office: Blue and Green

In 1999, researchers at Creighton University found that colors significantly influence employees’ emotions and efficiency. Workers in blue offices felt the most centered, calm and hopeful towards their work. Since blue can lower heart rates and green reduces anxiety and is associated with money, a combination of blue and green is best for the workplace.

What Color You Should Never Wear to Work: Grey

Grey inspires people to be passive, uninvolved and have a lack of energy. If you like wearing grey, pairing it with a brighter color will help offset the effect.

Choosing the color of your office, your clothes or your desktop should not be taken lightly — colors do affect our moods and productivity. However, colors are not the only thing that affects us — one can still be efficient in a grey suit or workout well in a black outfit. But, when given the choice, picking a color that will work with you, and not against you can only help.

What to Wear: Our Color Guide

Download this one-sheet and put it on your closet door for easy reference!

Science of People Color Guide, color psychology 101


Jacobs, Keith W. and Frank G. Hustmyer Jr. (1974), “Effects of Four Psychological Primary Colors on GSR, Heart Rate and Respiration Rate,” Perceptual and Motor Skills, 38, 763-66.
Color Wheel Pro. Accessed: October 31, 2012.

University of Hawaii at Hilo; The Psychology of Color; Kalyan N. Meola; 2005

“Effects of Office Interior Color on Worker’s Mood and Productivity.” Nancy K Wallek, Carol M. Lewis, and Ann S. Robbins. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 1988, 66, 123-128.

Birren, F. (1978). Color & Human Response. New York: John Wiley & Sons. Inc.

Mahnke, F. (1996). Color, environment and human response. New York: Wiley.

Mahnke, R. & Mahnke, F. (1993). Color and Light 1993. New York: John
Wiley & Sons.

Webster, G., Urland, G., & Correll, J. (2011). Can Uniform Color Color Aggression? Quasi-Experimental Evidence From Professional Ice Hockey Social Psychological and Personality Science, 3 (3), 274-281 DOI: 10.1177/1948550611418535

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All Rights Reserved + COPYRIGHT 2013 Science of People, LLC

About Vanessa Van Edwards

Vanessa Van Edwards is a published author and behavioral investigator. She is a Huffington Post columnist and her courses and research has been featured on CNN, Forbes, Business Week and the Wall Street Journal. As a published Penguin author, Vanessa regularly speaks and appears in the media to talk about her research. She is a sought after consultant and speaker.


  1. Danielle McRae

    I’ve always heard that certain colors mean different things, and you made it very easy to understand! It’s fascinating that our brains respond to color in that way. If you’re colorblind, does your brain still respond to the colors you’re seeing or is it different?

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  4. Caq

    Don’t know how did I end up reading a two-year old post, but… whatever.
    There’s one thing, though. What do you mean by “stable”?
    I am pretty sure I’m emotionally stable, but anywhere else I’m probably the most unstable person ever. I’m constantly changing my mind on everything, for instance. So… Wouldn’t it be pretty counterproductive to wear blue to a date?

    Also, Danielle’s question is a very interesting one, worth research in my opinion.

    1. Danielle McRae

      Hey there, Caq– great points. I’m not entirely sure the definition of stable here. Perhaps it’s any kind of stability whether that’s emotionally based or career-based, etc. Blue also portrays loyalty and tranquility, so it has a few other benefits as well. I don’t think it would be counter-productive to wear blue on a date. Remember, that this is just a color and more of an initial impression– if you’re indecisive your date will probably pick up on that pretty quickly no matter what color you’re wearing 😉

      We have a post coming soon on the power of the color blue, so definitely check back with on this one!

      Danielle | Science of People Team

  5. G B

    I almost always wear only black. I am thin, so part of my thinking is that the perceived potential for aggression may balance my physical limitations. One of my strengths is academics, and I think people may associate black with Steve Jobs–I would obviously welcome that. I bicycle on most days and black resists showing dirt. I prefer that all my clothes combinations go together, and wearing black seems to be among the more cost-effective ways to make that happen.

    Still, I like to periodically reconsider. I still like how I look, but have few connections and want to make many more. Is wearing black likely to impede this goal?

    1. Danielle McRae

      Hey GB, thanks for sharing. Black may not impede your goal, but I would be curious to see what happens when you wear a different color. Will people interact with you differently? Treat you differently? Will you feel a change in yourself? Sounds like it’s time for a little self-experiment!

      Danielle | Science of People Team

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