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I recently reviewed a style guide document and came across a passage concerning colors. In the text, different colors are attributed to different emotions, e.g.:

Orange stands for lust for life

or

White is the color of innocence

My initial reaction was, this sounds quite esoteric to me. While researching this online, I found similar claims, including here on ux.stackexchange, (e.g. in this answer: https://ux.stackexchange.com/a/33294/3311).

Is there any research supporting these claims?

15

Yes there is quite a lot of research on mood, perception, and bias related to color.

The terms you are looking for are color theory and color psychology. Doing a search on these terms will yield the body of research.

The research paper Effects of Color on Emotions should provide a decent overview as well as a good set of references if you need to dig deeper.

It's probably outside the scope of this answer to discuss at length how emotions are affected by color, but a lot of the mood and emotional qualities ascribed to color are actually the results of visual perception and color biases rather than a direct psychological link between color and emotion.

You're right to be skeptical of articles which claim a direct link between color and emotions (e.g. "red is sexy"). This article from Psychology Today points out that the relationship between color and emotion is complex, and depends on the object being evaluated, convention, context, culture, and other variables. So a simplistic color X = emotion Y relationship is misleading.

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    I wouldn't say it is outside the scope to discuss the "how". That'd be a pretty darn good answer to start the OP's search with a few solid examples. – Evil Closet Monkey Apr 3 '15 at 14:55
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    The OP's question was "is there research supporting the link... ", to which the direct answer is "yes". A different question might have been "how does color affect mood?", for which a summary of how might have been appropriate (although that is a HUGE topic!). Given the complexity of the relationship between color and emotions, I tried to provide terminology and a well referenced research paper as entry points into the field for a deeper search. – tohster Apr 3 '15 at 15:00
  • Taking a step beyond what was asked ("is there") and towards the higher level question ("how does") is never outside the scope of an answer. The answer is very good, and does provide very good entry points into a deeper search. But providing some examples of "how does", even though it wasn't directly asked, should not be seen as out of scope and out of bounds. It's the difference between a very good and a great answer. – Evil Closet Monkey Apr 3 '15 at 16:36
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    Cool. I'm simply saying that the "how" shouldn't be seen as out of scope - not that it is necessary to have. I already hit the +1 for what was there, as it was a very good answer (even got myself a new bookmark from your link). – Evil Closet Monkey Apr 3 '15 at 16:59
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    Pic related: infobeautiful3.s3.amazonaws.com/2013/01/… – Vi. Apr 6 '15 at 21:53
5

It's possible that there is a culturally specific answer to this but, as far as I know, there aren't any colors that have universally significant connotations.

Even within cultures one should take these findings with a grain of salt.

White may mean purity in one culture and death in another. Someone to whom white is the color of death isn't going to be put off by stackexchange because it has a white background; the same as someone to whom black is the color of death isn't going to be put off by stackexchange's use of black lettering.

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