Journal article

Put on that colour, it fits your emotion: Colour appropriateness as a function of expressed emotion

People associate affective meaning with colour, and this may influence decisions about colours. Hue is traditionally considered the most salient descriptor of colour and colour-affect associations, although colour brightness and saturation seem to have particularly strong affective connotations. To test whether colour choices can be driven by emotion, we investigated whether and how colour hue, brightness, and saturation are systematically associated with bodily expressions of positive (joy) and negative (fear) emotions. Twenty-five non-colour-blind participants viewed videos of these expressions and selected for each video the most appropriate colour using colour sliders providing values for hue, brightness, and saturation. The overall colour choices were congruent with the expressed emotion-that is, participants selected brighter and more saturated colours for joy expressions than for fear expressions. Also, colours along the red-yellow spectrum were deemed more appropriate for joy expressions and cyan-bluish hues for fear expressions. The current study adds further support to the role of emotion in colour choices by (a) showing that emotional information is spontaneously used in an unconstrained choice setting, (b) extending to ecologically valid stimuli occurring in everyday encounters (dressed bodies), and (c) suggesting that all colour parameters are likely to be important when processing affective nonverbal person information, though not independently from each other.


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