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Understanding how colors can impact others perception of you is pretty powerful knowledge. Colors also have an impact on how you feel about yourself. You can use the principles of color theory intelligently in your day-to-day life to subtly influence positive changes and avoid negativity.

color theory

From our earliest years were taught to associate colors with the environment around us. Red flames that will burn us, blue water that soothes us, blue skies that forecast a beautiful day, green leaves that promise springtime, and so forth.

The psychological impact of these environmental cues is deeply rooted in our psyche but how can we harness this power and make it work for us in a practical manner? There have been numerous scientific studies on the subject of color. One from Cornell University suggests that not only does the size of a dinner plate impact the serving portion of the individual, but the contrast of color does as well.

pasta plate test

Participants of the study were split up, one group given white plates, and the other group given red plates. They were offered pasta with either Alfredo sauce or tomato sauce. Those that chose Alfredo with white plates and likewise, those that had red plates and chose tomato sauce served themselves a significantly larger portion than those with high contrast choices such as tomato sauce on a white plate. Because of the low contrast, they did not recognize how much they were about to consume.

Ever wonder why your doctor’s lab coat is white even though it’s probably the most impractical color choice? White reminds us of cleanliness, purity, protection, and imparts a sense of orderliness. Viewed in that light, white becomes the most practical color choice when trying to assure patients of efficiency.

white labcoat

Want to have a great workout session? Try wearing orange. Orange has the power of energy and vitality. It’s an optimistic and extroverted color that spouts enthusiasm. According to holistic and alternative medicine practitioners, wearing orange while exercising can increase oxygen supply to the brain. Orange is the perfect marriage of red and yellow, two of the most exciting colors on the spectrum.

orange workout

Yellow is the color of clarity and mental alertness. It also induces positivity. Yellow is the color of the sun and lack of sunlight can result in a serious medical conditional known as Seasonal Effective Disorder, more commonly known as Winter Depression. The effect of the color yellow is so dramatic, some color therapists believe exposure to the color can help with conditions like depression and stimulates confidence and optimism. However too much yellow is said to have negative effects on emotions and can cause anger or hyperactivity.

yellow color

Red has been perhaps the most studied color since it’s so controversial. It’s said to evoke emotions of anger, excitement, and even raises blood pressure. It’s also extremely popular in restaurants color schemes because it’s supposed to increase appetite. Wearing red has been found to enhance the physical attractiveness of a woman. According to the research of two University of Rochester professors, red is the color you want to be wearing if you’re looking to entice a male partner. Men were shown a series of photographs of women, some simply had red frames and others were wearing red shirts. Consistently throughout the research, women shown in association with the color red were rated as more sexually attractive. No other trait was seen to increase like intelligence or kindness. The professors suggest it has something to do with the primitive mind. Interestingly enough, the men were not aware that it was the color that was changing their perception since in many cases they were shown pictures of the exact same woman wearing a different color.

red woman

Blue is possibly the most beloved color of them all. It has a calming and serene effect on most people. Maybe because the sky is blue and it’s the color of the ocean. Our affinity with water is dramatic. Most of the population of the Earth lives within 60 miles of a body of water. It soothes us, speaks to our souls, and it’s a source of livelihood and survival. It invokes emotion. It’s hard to imagine that our ancestors didn’t even have a word for the color blue. Opposite of the findings on the color red, blue is supposed to be the best color for a man to wear on a date presumably because of the calming effect.

color blue

If you’re looking to appear more efficient in the workforce, wear black. Black has been scientifically shown to induce the attitude of aggressiveness, not only to the person wearing black, but also has the same impact on how others perceive you. Black has always been associated with the color of night and malevolence. While this sounds negative, translating these traits into the workplace means you are to be taken seriously and have authority. It’s no wonder why Steve Jobs always wore his signature black turtleneck.

black color

Green is the color of relaxation and rejuvenation. Wearing green conveys you are trustworthy and dependable. It also reduces stress and anxiety so if you’re going to have to deal with a problem client or troublesome family member, green is going to have a calming effect. It’s also very soothing to the eyes as it’s the most prevalent color in nature. That’s why skincare companies like Aveda use green in their packaging and advertising.

green color

Perception of color is so subjective that we even extend our feelings toward what the color is called. Why are we drawn to amber and not orange? Spice, but not brown? Iced Cherries but not bright pink? It’s obvious why makeup companies, textile designers, and marketers all over the world expend a lot of resources on research to find out what moves people to buy.


An important thing to remember about color and perceptions is that it is influenced by context and references to our upbringing and memories. If someone strongly associates the color blue with a negative memory from childhood, it’s not going to have the soothing effect that it is generally known to have. Many ideas on color are part of social conditioning like bold colors for men and softer hues for women. In general color should be used to persuade and influence but don’t expect a universal reaction. Each person is subject to their own impressions.

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