Draft 1, How color effects your Mood

This topic submitted by Dan Mazzarini, Nicole Schmidt, Mike Friermood, Amy myers (Myersae@miamioh.edu) at 8:15 pm on 9/30/99. Additions were last made on Wednesday, May 7, 2014. Section: Myers


Our initial question was; how do colors effect mood? We narrowed our question into a workable experiment to discover the effects of six different colors on the participant's state of mind, disposition or feeling. We chose black, white, red, yellow, blue and green based on other research and how common they are in our environment. Our intention is to use their responses to various questions as an indication of their present mood. We anticipate that each of our colors will produce a specific mood, and from our tests we will be able to interpret the general reaction to each color.


For our student generated experiment, we decided to test the effects of color on the human psyche. Using six colors in a variety of tests, we hope to find conclusive results that will confirm or disprove our hypothesis that colors have a distinct impact upon the human psyche. We decided upon the this project originally because color in nature was of interest to all of us and the results can be implemented in helpful ways in society.

Knowledge of the link between colors and psyche can be put to use in many practical situations. For instance, the most calming colors might be used to decorate an emergency room or prison cell, while colors that cause elation can be used in a wedding or festival. Would it be useful to know which colors soothe, excite, agitate, and depress when designing a daycare, or someone's bedroom? We hope that our tests will provide data to further educate us in these matters.

To help us understand the nature of mood, "Moods as Sources of Stimulation: Relationships Between Personality and Desired Mood States," by Cheryl L. Rusting, and Randy J. Larsen will be utilized. Their studies implement a system of measuring the activation of high to low energy words. For instance, the word "intense" was found to be a "high activation" word, while the word "tranquil" was monitored as a "low activation" word. We plan to extend this system of testing by taking the words Rusting and Larsen used, and associating them with our six chosen colors. For instance, the color red might be found to be associated with the word "intense," thus passing on the attribute of high activation to the color as well as the word. By this practice we can measure energy levels in reference to color, and therefore draw parallels to mood.

Our second source, "Association of Colors with Warning Signal Words," by J.L. Griffith and S. David Leonard, conducted experiments to measure the human reaction towards different colors in terms of their severity. For instance, red was gaged as "severe," yellow was "minor," and blue was "none." The higher the severity, the more evident the color would be in a warning sign. We chose to use some of the colors from Griffith's and Leonard's studies because we were interested in the relationship between the severity of a color and the mood it may cause.

"Task Type, Posters, and Workspace Color on Mood, Satisfaction, and Performance," by Nancy J. Stone and Anthony J. English dealt with the effect of decoration of the workplace and surroundings on the mood. This helped us to decide how to design our testing site. For example, their studies found that color had a significant effect on the overall "pleasantness" of the workspace.

In F.J. Francis' article, "Quality as Influenced by Color," the relationships between food and color were explored. If people can associate food with different colors, as suggested by Francis, they might relate other objects to colors as well. This serves as a guide to our word association tests.

Our final article, "Color Meaning and Context: Comparisons of Semantic Ratings of Colors on Samples and Objects," by Charles Taft, similarly illustrates the association between specific colors, adjectives, and objects. We took this article in consideration when constructing our hypothesis, as in provided information for an educated guess.

By pulling together information from our research, we have devised a series of controlled tests, using the colors red, yellow, green, blue, black, and white. We predict that the results will indicate the following: red will provoke surprise and intense feelings, yellow will cause feelings of liveliness and enthusiasm, green will cause feelings of happiness and calmness, blue will cause feelings of tranquility, black will cause feelings of unhappiness, and white will cause feelings of passivity.


Our primary experiment will need to involve a minimum of 48 subjects. They will be divided into 6 groups, each group consisting of 4 males and 4 females. Each group of 8 subjects will be assigned a certain color. The colors involved in the experiment will be black, white, red, yellow, blue, and green. There will be one desk per group. The desk will be enclosed by walls on both sides and along the back of the desk. The walls and the top of each desk will be covered with one of the 6 colors, according to which color that group is assigned.
We decided that if the participating subjects were told in advance of the purposes of the experiment, or that the experiment dealt with color at all, that this knowledge would affect the results of the experiment negatively. Therefore, each subject will be told that they will be taking a personality test. They will be told that this is a serious experiment and to ensure accurate results to please answer truthfully. The subject will then be directed to an assigned desk. No directions as to taking the test will be given orally, because of the chance of variations in the explanation or even the tone of the person's voice.

The format of the test will be as follows. Part I will consist of a short story, approximately one paragraph in length, about a general subject. Throughout the story, there will be missing words where the subject will fill in the blanks. There will be written instructions that explain this, and that the subject should answer seriously and how he truly thinks the story should read. See Data Sheet: Personality Test Part I for this section of the test.
Part II of the test will be a series of written questions for the subject to answer. In order for the test to continue to be viewed as a personality test, not all questions will relate to colors.

For example:
1. Describe how you are feeling today in one word.
2. Give three words that you think best characterizes you.

In these examples, question 1 would probably give indications of the subject's mood, hopefully affected by the color around them, whereas question 2, though possibly could give some relevant information, is primarily used to maintain the notion that this is just a personality test. See Data Sheet: Personality Test Part II for this section of the test.

Part III of the Personality Test will be composed of 8 different adjectives (refer to Results to see possible adjectives). The subject will rate how often on average he experiences each adjective on a 0 to 5 scale, 0 being never and 5 being constantly.
Refer to Data Sheet: Personality Test Part III for this section of the test.
This will conclude the test. Each subject will only take one test with only one color theme. We considered other ways of testing the subjects, but we believe this will constitute the most unbiased results. With this number of people, 8 for each color, we believe the results will not suffer from not having each subject do all six color themes. We believe that the test should be new and fresh for each subject, with no former ideas about what he will be doing, which would not be possible if he did the test for multiple colors. We will then analyze the test answers together and categorize the answers.

Our group plans to give the test to 2 groups (of 8 people) per week, with the color background constant for all 8 subjects. So we will test with a different color for each of the 6 groups, resulting in a 3-week process.
Because we do not want to risk inaccurate results, and because there just isn't a great deal of additional help that is required to give the tests for this first experiment, we do not plan to involve the class in this process. However, we will explain the experiment and show how we analyzed the data, after the following experiments are conducted with the class.

In Class Experiment A, each person in the class will receive a paper sample of each of the 6 colors previously mentioned. In the room there will be 16 envelopes with a different mood written on each one. They will be instructed to put each sample into whichever envelope they associate each color with. The moods will be: surprised, intense, enthusiastic, lively, happy, cheerful, calm, at ease, tranquil, quiet, dull, droopy, gloomy, unhappy, fearful, and anxious. These moods were chosen from a list put together by Cheryl L. Rusting and Randy J Larsen in their study called "Moods as Sources of Stimulation: Relationships Between Personality and Desired Mood States," and they will be randomly placed. This experiment can be used to compare which colors people think relate to which moods, to what relationships there actually are.

Class Experiment B will be to have a prepared set of questions that ask for a color that corresponds with the situation given. We will have each classmate answer the questions.
Refer Data Sheet: Class Experiment B for the set of questions. If time allows, after answering these questions for themselves, we will split the class into groups and assign each group one of the same questions. Each group will then collect answers to their question from people outside of class, in order to have a large amount of data, and so the occasional biased answers will not be a factor. The class, if time permits, will then assist our group in categorizing and analyzing the data. We expect this experiment to show which colors people associate with certain moods.

Data Sheet:
Personality Test Part I

DIRECTIONS: Read the following story and fill in each blank with a word that you think fits. Please answer seriously. Make the story read as you think it should.
One day, Pat awoke at ____________ and got dressed

______________. The weather was ______________ that day, so Pat
(adverb) (adjective)

wore a ________________. Then Pat went to the ______________ and
(noun) (place)

had a ________________ time. Pat _______________ the whole way
(adjective) (verb)

home. Pat felt like _______________ after arriving back home. Later

that evening, Pat fixed a very ________________ dinner, and ate while

watching __________________ on the television. That night Pat slept
(T.V. show)

________________. Pat had a dream involving ___________________.
(adverb) (noun)

"Personality Test": PART 2

1)Describe how you are feeling today in one word.
2)What would you say is one of your faults?
3)Would you say you are an optimist, pessimist or a realist?
4)What is one of your strengths?
5)What is your favorite color?
"Personality Test": PART 3
Rate these words based on the 0-5 scale on how often you experience these moods on average.

~Although we tell the participants to rate their mood frequency on average, we're assuming that it is their actual mood. This is based on past research, and we're suggesting that their actual mood will be effected by the color surrounding them.


Class Experiment B

DIRECTIONS: Please say the first color that comes to mind as your read these different experiences.
1)You score the winning goal in the final game.
2)Going on a Picnic
3)You're involved in a serious car accident.
4)You receive 100% on your final exam.
5)Reading a good book.

~We anticipate that each of these experiences will produce a certain state of mind or feeling. Therefore the participant will most often respond with the color we've assigned to the question.

The responses to the questions should be as follows:
3)Activated-Unpleasant---Black, red
5)Low Activation/Pleasant---blue
6)Unactivated/Pleasant---White. Blue

Despite some overlap, we were careful to avoid questions with prompts like water, and 100% in place of A+ because of the high association with an A and red. We did some informal testing and had some verification of our hypothesis already, using this last test.

Hypothesized Results/ Analysis

We intend to use three different tests in hope that they will create a pattern we can draw conclusions from. In theory, we expect red to induce a highly activated mood and blue to induce an inactive but pleasant mood. Black will be unpleasant and active. Green and yellow could both be pleasant, but we suspect that yellow will also induce and active mood, versus green which will be inactive. White is a neutral color, therefore we are unsure of the mood it will elicit. Our idea is that it will be split between negative and positive moods.
We will base our decision on the type of mood that they are experiencing by using several adjectives in each category. The following is a list of the adjectives we will be using and the category they fall into. These are also our hypothesized results:

Category: Adjectives: Color:

High-Activation surprised, intense, Red
Activated-Pleasant enthusiastic, lively, Red, Yellow excited, elated
Pleasant happy, cheerful, glad, Yellow
pleased, delightful
Unactivated-Pleasant calm, at ease, serene, Green
Low-Activation quiet, tranquil, still, Blue, white
passive, idle
Unactivated-Unpleasant dull, droopy, tired, bored, Blue
drowsy, sluggish
Unpleasant unhappy, miserable, sad, Black
gloomy, grouchy
Activated-Unpleasant fearful, anxious, nervous, black, white
jittery, annoyed

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