Similar emotions evoked worldwide by colors


People all over the world associate colors with emotions. In fact, people from different areas of the world frequently associate the very same colors with the very same emotions. This was the result of a thorough survey of 4,598 participants in 30 nations over 6 continents, carried out by an global research group. “No similar study of this scope has ever been carried out,” said Dr. Daniel Oberfeld-Twistel, member of the participating team at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU). “It allowed us to obtain a comprehensive overview and establish that color-emotion associations are surprisingly similar around the world.”

In the journal Psychological Science, the scientists report that the participants were asked to complete an internet questionnaire, which included assigning up to 20 feelings to twelve distinct color terms. The participants were asked to define the intensity with which they related the color term with the emotion. The researchers then calculated the national averages to the data and compared these with the global average. “This revealed a significant global consensus,” summarized Oberfeld-Twistel. “For example, throughout the world the color of red is the only color that is strongly associated with both a positive feeling – love – and a negative feeling – anger.” Brown, on the other hand, triggers the fewest emotions worldwide. However, the scientists also noted some national peculiarities. For instance, the color of white is more closely connected with despair in China than it is in other countries, and the same applies to purple in Greece. In addition to these cultural peculiarities, the climate can also play a role. According to the findings from a different of their group’s research, yellowish tends to be closely connected with the emotion of delight in nations that see less sun, while the association is weaker in areas that have greater exposure to it.

According to Dr. Daniel Oberfeld-Twistel, it is currently hard to say just what the causes for international similarities and differences are. “There is a range of possible influencing factors: language, culture, religion, climate, the history of human development, the human perceptual system.” Many fundamental questions regarding the mechanics of color-emotion institutions have to be clarified, he continued. But by using a comprehensive analysis that included the use of a machine learning strategy designed by Oberfeld-Twistel, a computer program that improves itself as the database develops, the scientists have discovered that the differences between nations are higher the more they’re geographically separated and/or the larger the differences between the languages spoken in them.

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