The cultural difference: How colors influence our feelings

The influence of colors

If we think about it carefully, I’m sure each of us can look back on a moment when our mood and feelings changed noticeably without us being able to pinpoint an external reason for it. Perhaps, however, one or the other then remembers that his environment had a certain color, which mostly unconsciously left positive or also negative impressions. Because not only clear external stimuli such as sounds, images or interaction with other people have an influence on our emotional image, but also the colors of our environment.

The special effect of colors on the human mind is built into us by nature as a survival aid. Thus, the human mind can recognize and process color nuances in order to decide, initially consciously but later unconsciously, whether, for example, a colored fruit is already ripe or whether a fire is hot and dangerous. Over time, the need to instinctively pay attention to certain colors is replaced in people by other aspects, such as experiential values. However, they never completely lose their signaling effects that trigger certain feelings or moods in the body.

Different color effect due to unique cultural imprints

The effect of individual colors or color combinations on people changes due to the cultural imprint of communities and ethnic groups, depending on the culture. Since in many parts of the world people grow up with completely different social or cultural backgrounds, which in a whole range of cases are linked to color nuances, each of us reacts differently to individual colors or color combinations. It is interesting to note that no color has exclusively positive or negative effects on the human mind, but in most cases both occur in varying degrees.

Thermotec AG - The cultural difference: How colors influence our feelings - Buntstifte verschiedener Farben
Thermotec AG - The cultural difference: How colors influence our feelings - Buntstifte verschiedener Farben

Which color puts you in a good mood? – ©lupiklv | Fotolia

Different cultures and different meanings of colors

Let’s start with the color red. Originally the most intense of all warning and alarming colors, it often stands for very positive aspects, depending on the culture. Thus, red is often known in the Asian region as the color of happiness and joy and is often used symbolically at weddings or the birth of children. The birth of children and life in general, is also accompanied by the color red in some African areas. Interestingly, from the same region there are also examples that associate the color rather with mourning customs. In Egyptian and ancient cultures, red was considered a sign of something precious and striking, so it was used on clothing or body paint. This effect can still be found today in European cultural circles, where strength, self-confidence and positive appearance are still associated with the color red, especially on clothing. However, the original signal characteristics such as fire, danger and anger continue to be triggered by and associated with a strong red.

Just as memorable as red has always been the color blue for the human mind. If in the Orient or Asian cultures it stands on the one hand for the color of the good spirits or the gods of heaven who signify prudence, faith and loyalty, it is equally associated with the life-giving water and thus as a blessing and source of salvation positive connotations. In European culture, blue usually fulfills trust-inspiring qualities and is associated with sentiments such as loyalty, authority and quality. However, there are exactly opposite sensations here, such as mental coldness or fear, among others.

Complementary to blue, the color yellow stands in the color wheel. Hardly any color has a more contradictory effect on people, depending on their cultural background. For example, as the color of the sun, in the Arab world it is associated with prosperity and supreme happiness, while in South America it equally evokes joy but also feelings of envy and illness. Such a contradiction can also be seen in the Asian region: Here, yellow symbolizes wisdom, dignity and tolerance in equal measure, but is also associated with weakness and flightiness. The European cultural area is no exception, because here, too, the differences are serious. Thus, yellow color on the one hand is perceived as cheerful, active and open, but at the same time can be connoted with anger, illness and jealousy.

The color green also has a very differentiated effect on different groups of people. In the Asian region, it stands equally for youth, tranquility and happiness, but also for the indefinable fear. In Arab countries, it retains its original association with fertility and strength to this day. In European areas, green symbolizes hope, health and light-heartedness on the one hand, but is also identified by some people as the color of envy, immaturity and boredom.

One color, many sensations

So, after these comparisons, we see that colors can sometimes trigger quite strong sensations in the human mind. The associations, sometimes very different, are culturally grown and rooted and vary according to the region of origin or sometimes even personal preferences or experiences.

It remains to be said that a certain color can have an individual effect on a person and influence him positively or negatively. So the next time you noticed a difficult-to-explain change of mood in yourself, it’s worth remembering what colors you had been confronted with at that moment, because that could have been the reason for their sensations.

Image credits Cover image: show your colors: © | Fotolia

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