What is color psychology -- and can it help you sell your home?

The Color Wheel

Colors can elicit strong reactions in people, both physical and psychological, as well as various symbolic associations.
Colors can elicit strong reactions in people, both physical and psychological, as well as various symbolic associations.
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­Glancing at each color on the list below, think for a moment how it makes you feel, then read on to see if you had a common reaction. If not, don't worry. It's not an exhaustive list, and some event, personality trait or demographic factor might have made you feel another reaction. For example, if you've almost drowned in the ocean, blue might not be a very relaxing color for you. If you're an eight-year-old girl, you might scorn anything other than pink.

Let's run through that old trusty eight-crayon Crayola box:

  • Red: Red is the color most people have the strongest associations with and reactions to. People frequently report feelings of strength, courage, aggression and excitement. Red can elicit an increased heart rate and energy level, and just a dash of red on something can really draw someone's attention. Whether it's a stop sign, a Valentine's day card or a warning label, red is there to catch the eye.
  • Orange: Orange can spark some serious reactions, too -- people typically love it or they hate it. Orange is often linked with flamboyance, energy, comfort and warmth.
  • Yellow: Yellow can be a happy, cheerful color. People often report feelings such as enthusiasm, energy, excitement and optimism when viewing it. In some shades and amounts, yellow is believed to be mentally and creatively stimulating, but in others it can be associated with cowardice, fear and anxiety.
  • Green: Green is a color commonly used in expressions and symbolic associations, and it's only second to blue as a favorite color. Natural shades of green can feel refreshing, balanced and soothing, but other shades of green can invoke sickly, bland or slimy feelings. Green is often symbolic of concepts like peace, envy, luck and fertility.
  • Blue: The majority of people agree: blue's the best. Maybe that's because this color can actually trigger the body to produce calming chemicals. Blue frequently invokes words like dependable, loyal, logical, soothing, calm and focused, although some shades can bring feelings that are more dynamic and exhilarating, or cold and distant. Blue also tends to increase worker and athlete productivity.
  • Purple: Purple is the balance between the liveliness of red and the serenity of blue, so some uncertain shades of purples can leave people feeling a little uneasy or introspective. Others can invoke feelings of loyalty, quality, mysticism and wisdom.
  • Black: Black is a powerful color, often bringing to mind authoritativeness and other strong, sometimes overwhelming, emotions. Black can be associated with grieving in the Western hemisphere, but head East and the color white makes people think of mourning.
  • Brown: Brown often conjures up feelings of stability and naturalness. People commonly report experiencing sensations of reliability when they see brown and a sense of order and wholesomeness.

Of course, these are just some of the main basic colors; people can actually see millions of colors, which vary from each other in several ways. Above, we split them up by the some of the different hues they come in, but colors can come in different saturations -- how vivid or pale (unsaturated) a color is. Finally, colors can be judged by their brightness (intensity or value) -- a color's amount of light energy.

Color psychology has a number of practical applications, from the color selection for new medications to Web design and marketing. On the next page, we'll take a closer look at whether color psychology can assist in a matter that's all over the news right now: selling a home.