For the second part of my colour psychology blog series, I’m focusing on the colour blue. You can check out the first post all about red here.
Blue has been a colour that has long been associated with sadness, low mood and depression. While at the same time being strongly associated with calmness and serenity; blue brings about images of clear blue skies and ocean views. These popular associations with the colour actually have been found to some extent actually have the ability to effect our mood. However, one thing I’m learning is that scientific research on the psychology of colour has very mixed results. It is hard really to distinguish between if we have simply associated a colour with a certain mood or certain colours naturally have different effects on out mood. Nevertheless, I have found some pretty interesting studies to share.
Blue in Office Interior
Researchers looked at the effect of a blue coloured office on worker’s moods Kwallek, Lewis, Robbins (1988) The study asked a group of participants to work on filling out business forms in either a monochrome, red or blue room for 20 minutes. After the 20 minutes were up they were given a mood questionnaire and either returned to the same coloured room or a different coloured room.
They were then given the task again and after another 20 minutes, they were given the mood questionnaire again. The average depression scores for those who stayed in the blue room was higher compared to the other groups. Although a interesting result the study overall didn’t find a significant difference between the groups, only a higher than average depression score for the blue group. Suggesting there could be a link between blue and lower mood but it can’t be established (from this study) that link is really a significant one.
Blue and Creativity
Exposure to the colour blue has been found to increase performance in creative tasks Mehta & Zhu (2009) The researchers suggested that this happens outside our conscious processing. Which is really interesting because I do associate blue with creative thinking. In fact there is a whole technique around thinking creatively called ‘blue sky thinking’. Blue occurs in our natural environment most obviously in the sky and the sea. When I look at the sky and the sea I do notice myself getting lost in my thoughts and daydreaming. Which I guess is a form of being creative, but here’s where things get confusing. I then went on to find a study that showed blue had the exact opposite effects…
Hamid & Newport (1989) found that children in a blue room showed lower creative mood compared to those in a pink coloured room. It’s hard to know why contradictions in research exist. It could be just individual differences and that people are effected by colour differently depending on age, as this study focused on children instead of adults. Or it could be that there simply isn’t a lot of evidence to suggest that blue actually does have any effect on creativity at all.
Blue in Marketing
When we look at famous brand that use blue in their marketing a lot are strongly associated with communication. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and of course WordPress. In marketing blue is also seen as a colour associated with trust and security a lot of financial companies might choice blue for their branding. What’s interesting is how different shades of blue seem to be used differently in branding. Deeper blues such as navy blue seem to be viewed as quite corporate and professional. However, lighter blues seem more friendly and almost childlike a good example might be the twitter logo.
Blue in my opinion really has the ability to portray different emotions depending on the shade. I tend to associate light blues with being calm and serene but I personally tend to associate darker blues with feelings of sadness. It’s interesting to note how simply changing the shade or a colour can change our associations with certain colours. I think this is particularly noticeable with the colour blue.
It was interesting to see how the research into the colour blue seems to struggle to meet a consensus. One thing I have realised is the scientific research into colour psychology doesn’t always back the claims made by popular psychology. A lot of articles fail to cite any academic sources, so it’s been interesting to look a little further than just the first few articles that google brings up.
I am aiming to have the final part to this series up by next week, which will be all about yellow. I’m excited to see what research has to say on how yellow effects our mood, since we typically view it as such a joyful colour.
Feature Image and Collage: Unsplash
Photo Editing: Canva