This is a sufficiently complex (and controversial) topic to be covered in an article, but we want to leave the main elements that can guide or make one understand if colours really have any effect on the psyche or emotions and are therefore likely to alter states of perception.
In 1666, the English scientist Sir Isaac Newton discovered that when pure white light passes through a prism, it separates into all the visible colours. Newton also discovered that each colour consists of a single wavelength and can no longer be separated into other colours.
In that past, other experiments showed that light could be combined to form other colours. For example, red light mixed with yellow light creates an orange colour. Some colours, such as green and magenta, cancel each other out when mixed together and result in a white light. If you’ve ever painted, then you’ve probably noticed how certain colours can be mixed together to create other colours.
“Given the prevalence of colour, one would expect colour psychology to be a well-developed area,” noted researchers Andrew Elliot and Markus Maier. “Surprisingly little theoretical or empirical work has been conducted to date on the influence of colour on psychological functioning,1 and the work that has been done has been driven primarily by practical concerns rather than scientific rigour.”
Despite the general lack of research in this area, the concept of colour psychology has become a hot topic in marketing, art, design, and other fields. Much of the evidence in this emerging area is often purely empirical but researchers and experts have made some important discoveries and observations about colour psychology and its effect on moods, feelings and behaviours.
Colour is determined by the brain
When you look at a coloured object, your brain determines its colour in the context of the surrounding colours. The sensation you get when you look at bright complementary colours next to each other is a vibrant or pulsating effect.
It looks like the colours are moving away from each other. It’s caused by an effect called colour fatigue. When a colour hits a portion of the retina long enough, the optic nerve starts sending confusing signals to the brain. This confusion is intensified by the complements. Mixing bright complementary colours draws attention but should be used with restraint.
The effect is disconcerting and can make your eyes feel as if they have been shaken. Do the following experiment: Stare at the centre point of the corner area for 30 seconds.
Then close your eyes or look at a white wall. What do you see?
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