Colors evoke similar emotions around the world, survey finds

Certain colors are globally linked to certain feelings, the study reveals.

eye color
Credit: Liudmila Dutko on Adobe Stock
  • Color psychology is often used in marketing to alter your perception of products and services.
  • Various studies and experiments across multiple years have given us more insight into the link between personality and color.
  • The results of a new study spanning 6 continents (30 nations) shows universal correlations between colors and emotions around the globe.

People associate colors with emotions (green for envy, blue for sadness, etc). We see this portrayed in the media, in marketing, even in the clothes we choose to wear. A detailed survey of over 4,500 participants from 30 nations (spanning over 6 continents) explains that people from all over the world often associate the same feelings with the same colors.

"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."

    The root of color psychology

    There is a very likely chance you've even been "fooled" by color marketing in the past, or you've chosen one product over another subconsciously due to colors that were designed to influence your emotions.

    Companies that want to be known for being dependable often use blue in their logos, for example (Dell, HP, IBM). Companies that want to be perceived as fun and exciting go for a splash of orange (Fanta, Nickelodeon, even Amazon). Green is associated with natural, peaceful emotions and is often used by companies like Whole Foods and Tropicana.

    Your favorite color says a lot about your personality.

    Various studies and experiments across multiple years (2010, 2014, 2015, and more recently in 2019) have given us more insight into the link between your personality and your favorite color.

    Red, for example, is considered a bold color and is associated with feelings such as excitement, passion, anger, danger, energy, and love. The personality traits of this color might be someone who is bold, a little impulsive, and who loves adventure.

    Orange, on the other hand, is considered representative of creativity, happiness, and freedom. The personality traits of this color can be fun, playful, cheerful, nurturing, and productive. Read more about color psychology and personalities here.

    Study reveals which colors best suit which emotions around the globe

    concept of color psychology how colors make us feel color emotions

    Certain colors are globally ties to certain emotions, the study reveals.

    Image by agsandrew on Shutterstock

    In this particular survey, participants were asked to fill out an online questionnaire which involved assigning 20 emotions to 12 different color terms. They were also asked to specify the intensity with which they associated the color term with the emotion.

    Certain colors are globally linked to certain emotions, the study reveals.

    The results of this study showed a few definite correlations between colors and emotions throughout the globe. Red, for example, is the only color that is strongly associated with both negative (anger) and positive (love) feelings. Brown, on the other end of the spectrum, is the color that triggers the fewest emotions globally.

    The color white is closely associated with sadness in China, while purple is what is closely associated with sadness in Greece. This can be traced back to the roots of each culture, with white being worn at funerals in China and dark purple being the Greek Orthodox Church's color of mourning.

    Yellow is more associated with joy, specifically in countries that see less sunshine. Meanwhile, its association with joy is weaker in areas that have greater exposure to sunshine.

    According to Dr. Oberfeld-Twistel, it is difficult to say exactly what the causes for global 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."

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    Urban foxes self-evolve, exhibiting Darwin’s domestication syndrome

    A new study finds surprising evidence of the self-evolution of urban foxes.

    A fox at the door of 10 Downing Street on Janurary 13, 2015.

    Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images
    Surprising Science
    • A study from the University of Glasgow finds urban foxes evolved differently compared to rural foxes.
    • The skulls of the urban foxes are adapted to scavenging for food rather than hunting it.
    • The evolutionary changes correspond to Charles Darwin's "domestication syndrome."

    How much can living in the city change you? If you were an urban fox, you could be evolving yourself to a whole new stage and becoming more like a dog, according to a fascinating new study.

    Researchers compared skulls from rural foxes around London with foxes who lived inside the city and found important variations. Rural foxes showed adaptation for speed and hunting after quick, small prey, while urban fox skulls exhibited changes that made it easier for them to scavenge, looking through human refuse for food, rather than chasing it. Their snouts were shorter and stronger, making it easier to open packages and chew up leftovers. They also have smaller brains, not meant for hunting but for interacting with stationary food sources, reports Science magazine.

    Interestingly, there was much similarity found between the male and female skulls of the urban foxes.

    The observed changes correspond to what Charles Darwin called the "domestication syndrome," comprised of traits that go along with an animal's transition from being wild, to tamed, to domesticated.

    The study was led by Kevin Parsons, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Glasgow.

    "What's really fascinating here is that the foxes are doing this to themselves," Parsons told the BBC. "This is the result of foxes that have decided to live near people, showing these traits that make them look more like domesticated animals."

    The researchers are not suggesting you should go out and get a fox as a house-pet just yet. But they are seeing the evolutionary process taking place that's moving the urban foxes along the path towards becoming more like dogs and cats, explained the study's co-author Dr. Andrew Kitchener from National Museums Scotland.

    A fox beneath a tree in Greenwich park, south east London

    A fox beneath a tree in Greenwich park, south east London on May 14, 2020.

    Photo by Glyn KIRK / AFP

    "Some of the basic environmental aspects that may have occurred during the initial phases of domestication for our current pets, like dogs and cats, were probably similar to the conditions in which our urban foxes and other urban animals are living today," said Kitchener. "So, adapting to life around humans actually primes some animals for domestication."

    The specimen came from the National Museum Scotland's collection of around 1,500 fox skulls.

    You can read the study in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

    fox sleeping beneath stadium seats

    A fox at the LV County Championship, Division two match between Surrey and Derbyshire at The Brit Oval on April 9, 2010 in London, England.

    Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

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