Your Brain on Colors: Do Colors Actually Affect Decision Making?

As most of us can see them wherever we look, colors and the effects they have on our mind are often taken for granted. Take a moment to consider the colors we see in our natural environment. Did you ever notice how the bright blues and greens of Springtime have a more positive psychological effect on us than the dreary grey colors of Wintertime? Whether we think of it or not, the colors we see everyday have a substantial impact on how we feel and think.

Companies know this. Colors have long been used in advertising to seduce consumers into making an impulse purchase or switching brands. And market research indicates that carefully chosen color motifs really can affect our shopping decisions. The reality of this may be a rude awakening to some of us who may not be aware to what extent colors are actually affecting their buying behavior. For savvy consumers, it’s a worthy exercise to learn to recognize how colors influence us while we’re shopping online, rushing through a grocery store or thumbing through a fashion magazine.
How Colors Can Affect Your Decision Making

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no secret that colors are important to us and can make us feel better about ourselves and our environment. Just think of how much time we spend shopping for the right color clothes and shoes or even finding the perfect color to paint a room in our house. While we may not fully understand how colors impact us psychologically, most of us know from experience that colors can play an important part in our moods and decision making.

Throughout history and across many different cultures, colors have been shown to evoke very specific moods in individuals. The color orange, for instance, has the power to increase a person’s appetite, as well as promote activity. Some theorize that our attraction to the color orange could have to do with the coloring of citrus fruits, which were, and still are, very important parts of a healthy diet.

The color red, which is closely related to orange, can provoke a completely different response from those who view it. Like orange, red can excite us and make us more willing to act on something, but it can also elevate our adrenaline and blood pressure, which can lead to outbursts of excitement or anger. Some might draw a correlation between the psychological impact the color red has on humans with how a bull responds to a matador’s red cape during a bullfight. This would be false because bulls are colorblind and respond to movement—the cape is red so that bloodstains from the fight will be less noticeable.
While the colors orange and red have been shown to provoke strong emotional reactions from viewers, the color blue can have a calming effect on us, which can help to improve our ability to learn and concentrate. In fact, it has also been shown that we are most productive when we work in rooms that are colored blue. Also, in contrast to red, the color blue can actually decrease our heart rate and body temperature, making it much easier to focus on the task at hand.

Of the many colors that exist in our world, the colors red, orange and blue are used frequently by organizations and marketers looking to sell you on something. Red is perhaps the most effective color used by marketers to attract the attention of consumers. Did you ever wonder why luxury sports cars are often colored red? Not only does coloring the vehicle this way entice you to purchase the vehicle, but it can make quite a statement as you drive the car around your city or neighborhood.
How Marketers Sell Color

One of the earlier masters of color-based marketing was the Italian artist Leonetto Cappiello, whose artwork for commercial products in Europe during the early 20th century can now be seen at cafes, poster shops and in people’s homes all over the world. Cappiello was a major proponent of the color orange in much of his work, and this poster advertisement for Bitter Campari uses a black background to intensify the coloring of the unravelling orange peel and the strange harlequin figure within. What Cappiello was going for in this image was to whet the viewer’s appetite for a refreshing glass of Bitter Campari, and to say that he succeeding in doing so would be an understatement.

Blue is a color that typically needs to be used more carefully by marketers seeking to attract your attention, as it can easily go by unnoticed. This fascinating infographic shows how instead of driving attention, the color blue is typically used to make customers feel safe and relaxed. This fits quite nicely with our existing understanding of how the color affects us psychologically. As a result, the color blue is often showcased on bank logos and other businesses that want to make you feel that you doing business with someone trustworthy.

Take a look at the website for Bank of America, which showcases both the colors blue and red. Not only does it attempt to promote trust and calmness with blue, but also entices us to notice their products and services with the color red. In addition, the logo and color scheme are structured in such a way as to resemble to United States’ flag, which can promote strong feelings of patriotism as well. However, while a color scheme can suggest these “positive” things to us psychologically, an actual customer’s experience may vary tremendously.

As you can see, colors can truly affect our moods and decision making in a number of ways. However, most of what we know about how colors affect our minds are still only theories and cannot be applied to all people in all situations. Despite this, colors have been utilized for over a century by companies and marketers to more effectively entice consumers to purchase the products or services they are offering. So take a step back next time you place your eyes on that hot red sports car and try to ignore the color—chances are that your reaction to it will be decidedly different.