How Colour Influences Your Thoughts

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  • They began painting some of their cells pink.
  • That’s when researcher Alexander Schauss persuaded a naval correctional facility to paint a few of its detention cells pink, theorising from his own experiments that the colour might positively influence occupants’ behaviour, soothing and calming their agita.
  • And it is perhaps not misplaced either – there is evidence that colour can influence our behaviour in some surprising ways without us realising.

Even though the world is drenched in colour, some hues can have a startling effect on our capacity to focus, our mood, and even the flavours we perceive as reported by BBC.

Strange trend 

A few years ago, a strange trend started to sweep through prisons in Europe and North America.

They began painting some of their cells pink.

It became so common that in 2014, one in every five prisons and police stations in Switzerland had at least one detention cell that was painted a garish, flamingo pink.

The decor wasn’t intended as an aesthetic choice or to make millennial offenders feel more comfortable, but rather to leverage a well-known scientific study from the 1970s.

That’s when researcher Alexander Schauss persuaded a naval correctional facility to paint a few of its detention cells pink, theorising from his own experiments that the colour might positively influence occupants’ behaviour, soothing and calming their agita.

Study conducted 

The pink tone – officially designated P-618 but called Baker-Miller Pink by Schauss after the directors of the Naval detention centre he first tested it in – has become known by various names around the world where it has been used, from “Drunk Tank Pink” to “cool down pink”.

There’s just one problem: Schauss’ results have never been successfully replicated. 

“There was a study in 2015, conducted in a proper way under controlled conditions, that didn’t find any evidence pink reduces aggressiveness,” says Domicele Jonauskaite, a colour researcher at the University of Vienna, in Austria.

When the stricken traveller – actually played by one of the research team – wore a red shirt, she was picked up more often than wearing other colours.

Red has been shown to generate more immediate emotional responses, though perhaps this is due to what’s known as the Berlin-Kay Theory, derived from the work of a pair of US academics in the 1960s.

The longer a word for colour was in use, the greater the number of associations, meanings and nuances it can acquire.

Then again, colour can also be deployed to demoralise: one of the locker rooms at the University of Iowa’s football stadium was notoriously painted pink – including the urinals – in an attempt to nibble away at the visiting team’s competitive spirit – based on Schauss’s experiments.

Exactly how effective it was is still an open question – the statistics seemed to indicate that while the pink room was in use, the Iowa Hawkeyes had a higher than average home win rate, but there could be many other reasons for that record (they might just have a better team, for example).

Human behaviour 

Much of the research on how colour can affect human behaviour is contradictory though.

Experiments have also suggested that monotonous tasks like proofreading can be more effectively achieved in red offices while creative tasks, such as essay writing, are better done in blue rooms.

For example, it can mess with the way we experience our other senses, such as taste and flavour, or even our preference for music.

One thing that red seems to convey, fairly consistently, is sweetness.

But when Wright and her colleagues brightened the redness of the liquid rather than upping its sugar content, the participants began reporting it was tasting sweeter.

 

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Source: BBC

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