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Republic of the Philippines


Don Fabian St., Barangay Commonwealth, Quezon City Campus


“How Color Psychology affects Consumer Behavior”

Term Paper in

General Psychology


Submitted to

Prof. Artemus Cruz


Submitted by

Michelle P. Garcia



March 26, 2013

I. Introduction

Colors play an important role in our lives. It gives meaning to everything we see. As Human our color vision influences everything from our art and poetry to the colors we paint our homes and the clothing we choose to buy. Colors distinguish a thing from the other. Colors determine our emotions. Pablo Picasso once quoted, “Colors like features follow the changes of the emotions”. Do you feel happy in a yellow room? Does the color blue make you feel calm and relaxed? Artist and interior designers have already proven how color can dramatically affect moods, feelings and emotions. Color is a powerful tool when it comes to communication and can be used to signal action, influence mood and cause physiological reactions.

How color affects the effectiveness of the business? Marketing is a science of satisfying human wants and needs. When this filed acquires the principles of color psychology, it would be a great help for the marketers influence consumer behavior. Since color is an n important factor in the visual appearance of the products as well as in brand recognition, color has become important to marketing. Color is a very influential source of information when people are making purchase decision. This paper aims to answer the questions-How colors influence consumer behavior? How will marketers use color psychology effectively?

II. Background

Carl Jung is prominently associated with the pioneering stages of color psychology. Jung was most interested in color properties and meanings. To define, Color psychology is the study of color determinant of human behavior. What is color? According to English scientist Sir Isaac Newton he discovered that when pure white light passes through a prism, it separates into all of the visible colors. Newton also found that each color is made up of a single wavelength and cannot be separated any further into other colors.

Further experiments demonstrated that light could be combined to form other colors. For example, red light mixed with yellow light creates an orange color. Some colors, such as yellow and purple, cancel each other out when mixed and result in a white light.

Does the color affect mood? Psychologists have said “absolutely” to that question for every long time. The psychological effects colors have proven in research that the finding of chromology are now used in designing everything from hotel to cereal packages.

How do we perceive color? This is the first thing that we need to understand.We perceive color when the different wavelengths composing white light are selectively interfered with by matter (absorbed, reflected, refracted, scattered, or diffracted) on their way to our eyes, or when a non-white distribution of light has been emitted.

Visible light is merely a small part of the full electromagnetic spectrum, which extends from cosmic rays at the highest energies down through the middle range (gamma rays, X- rays, the ultraviolet, the visible, the infrared, and radio waves) all the way to induction-heating and electric-power-transmission frequencies at the lowest energies. Note that this is the energy per quantum (photon if in the visible range) but not the total energy; the latter is a function of the intensity in a beam.

We can detect the range of light spectrum from about 400 nanometers (violet) to about 700 nanometers (red). We perceive this range of light wavelengths as a smoothly varying rainbow of colors, otherwise known as the visual spectrum.

What Happens in the Eye?

The eye is often compared to a camera. But it might be more appropriate to compare it to a TV camera that is self-focusing, has a self-cleaning lens, and has its images processed by a computer with millions of CPUs. Light from an external object is refracted as it moves through the cornea, and then moves on to the pupil, which is controlled by the iris. The light is again refracted by the lens, which projects an upside-down image on the retina, or the rear, inner surface of the eyeball. There, it is absorbed by pigments in light-sensitive cells, called rods and cones. These photoreceptors convert light (photons) into electro-chemical signals, which are then processed by neural circuits in the retina and transmitted to the brain.

There are approximately 6 million cones in our retina, and they are sensitive to a wide range of brightness. The three different types of cones are sensitive to short, medium and long wavelengths, respectively. Cones are active at high light levels and allow us to see color and fine detail directly in front of us. They can adapt to widely varying colors and illumination levels, but don’t work well in low light.

Our retina’s 125 million rods are used only in dim light, and are monochromatic, so they don’t perceive color — only black and white. Rods account for our peripheral night vision, but don’t enable us to see well when we’re looking straight ahead.

The retina consists of a very thin layer of nerve cells and contains two types of photoreceptors, rods and cones. Ganglions are also located in the retina. This graph shows the sensitivity of the different cones to varying wavelengths. Retinal ganglion cells calculate color. But the cones in our eyes are just the beginning of the color story. Ganglions are a type of neuron located in the retina that receives signals via various intermediate cells from the cones and rods. They are the cells that transmit information to the brain.

The ganglion cells add and subtract signals from many cones. For example, by comparing the response of the middle-wavelength and long-wavelength cones, a ganglion cell determines the amount of green-or-red.

According to the study conducted by Michael Kalloniatis and Charles Luu. Colour vision processing in the primate visual system is initiated by absorption of light by three different spectral classes of cones. Thus, colour vision is described as being invariant or trichromatic, and initial psychophysical studies demonstrated that colours could be matched by the use of three different primaries. In 1802, Thomas Young proposed a model that perception of colour can be coded by three principal colour receptors rather than thousands of colour receptors coding for individual colours.

Spectral sensitivity of cones can be determined through several methods. Two of these methods include isolating receptoral responses (Baylor et al, 1984) using calculation from colour matching function of normals and dichromats, a dichromat is a subject whose retina has one cone photopigment missing), microspectrometry (Bowmaker and Dartnall, 1980) or reflection densitometr. The microspectrometer technique involves isolating a single cone and passing light through it. The change in transmission of different wavelengths can be used to calculated the spectral absorption of the cone or determine the change in electrical response. Reflection densitometry involves directing light in the retina and determining the change in absorption as a function of wavelength. These results are subsequently used to calculate spectral absorption.

What is the Influence of color on perception?

According to Alcaide, J. et al, 2012, Perceptions not obviously related to color, such as the palatability of food, may in fact be partially determined by color. Not only the color of the food itself but also that of everything in the eater's field of vision can affect this.

III. Purpose

The paper aims to discuss briefly the Color psychology and how we perceive colors. Moreover the paper aims to point out the effects of color psychology to business specially consumer behavior.

IV. Statement of the problem

a. What is color Psychology?

b. How color psychology affects consumer behavior

c. Hoe does color affect or influence some areas of business such as the following:

Band meaning

• Color Name

• Store and Display color

• Packaging

• Logo

Consumer Behavior Individual differences

• Gender

• Age

• Culture

V. Facts bearer on the purpose and Discussion

We discussed the basic principles of color psychology and some studies conducted regarding the importance of it to human. This paper aims to discuss how does the color psychology affects consumer behavior?

Our perception is selective. We do not perceive everything in our environment, likewise in advertising. Everywhere we go we see a lot of billboards in the streets saying, ‘buy this”…or “buy this one” or even in social media there are “tons” of ads. Many products compete for just one attention to perceive the product and of course to make a purchase.

Effective marketing now use color as a means to attract consumer attention to a product that their influences buying behavior. There are thousands of products that compete for a single attention. That’s why marketers use color to touch consumer’s purchasing decisions even though there are attempts to classify consumer response to different colors. Everyone perceives color differently so the use of color must use appropriately.

Experiments conducted by Joan Meyers-Levy, Laura A Peracchio (1995) used two experiments to determine the impact of presenting full-color, black and white, and color highlighted ad photos. They hypothesized that “when available resources better approximate those required for extensive ad scrutiny, full color ads or ads that color highlight ad photo ad photos are more persuasive than either black and white ads or ads that color highlight aspects of lower relevance to ad.They showed that in certain situations that specific layouts of the advertisement would be more helpful. For example in an advertisement that has a lot of information to be processed, that the best type of advertisement would be in black and white. The reason for this is so the colors don’t interfere with the information that needs to be processed.

“Color ads are likely to undermine even highly motivated consumers’ product attitudes by limiting ad claim processing and substantiation (Garciaet al.1986). Some studies have shown that the impact that color plays in an advertisement depends on two key factors. These factors include the total number of colors used in the advertisement and the extent to which the ad is mentally demanding.

Moreover, “Color advertisements have been shown to attract 50% more readers than a black and white ad. What Barnes and Lee used for resources were Jet magazine (for the black magazine), People magazine (for the white people), Woman’s Day (for the female population), and Playboy (for the men’s selection). Four issues of each magazine were chosen for the study. All ads from the magazine were used for processing of color information. The two dominant colors in each ad were recorded to weigh out color preferences. This study shows that differences in “colors are significant and at most, the result could be obtained from sampling error 4 times out of a 100“(Barnes and Lee 1990).

Thus, showing significant results in their claim that black and white ads are more easily processed when cognitive tasks are more difficult. This interaction showed that when information was in black and white and grouped together that the attitude towards the product was more favorable. This also showed that when the advertisement was in color, it was better to have the bulleted information broken up, instead of in one list. All in all this experiment showed varying effects of color in advertising. When the ad used a large amount of resources the ads were more favorable in black and white, but when they were not as taxing on resources, color advertisements were better.

Brand meaning

Color is a very influential source of information when people are making a purchase decision. Within 90 seconds of interaction with a certain product customers generally make an initial judgment and about 62% to 90% of that judgment is based on color. The logo of the company or the brand serves as the representation of that company. Without prior experience to a logo, we begin to associate a brand with certain characteristics is based on the primary logo color.

According to O’conner 2011, Color mapping provides a means of identifying potential logo colors for new brands and ensuring brand differentiation within a visually cluttered marketplace.A study on logo color asked participants to rate how appropriate the logo color was for companies based on the products each company produced. They rate the appropriateness of the color for each product. They found out that If the product need or solves a problem, then a functional color was seen as most appropriate. If the product was seen as sensory-social, conveys attitudes, status, or social approval, then a sensory-social color were seen as more appropriate. Companies should decide what types of products to produce and then choose a logo color that is connotative with their products’ functions.

Research done on the relationship between logo color and five personality traits had participants rate a computer made logo in different colors on scales relating to the dimensions of brand personality. Relationships were found between color and sincerity, excitement, competence, sophistication, and ruggedness. A follow up study tested the effects of perceived brand personality and purchasing intentions.

Participants were presented with a product and a summary of the preferred brand personality and had to rate the likelihood of purchasing a product based on packaging color. Purchasing intent was greater if the perceived personality matched the marketed product or service. In turn color affects perceived brand personality and brand personality affects purchasing intent.

Although color can be useful in marketing, its value and extent of use depends on how it is used and the audience it is used on. The use of color will have different effects on different people, therefore experimental findings cannot be taken as universally true.

Although some companies use a single color to represent their brand still many other companies use a combination of colors in their logo such as McDonald’s. Studies have shown when asked to rate color pair preference of preselected pairs, people generally prefer color pairs with similar hues when the two colors are both in the foreground, however, greater contrast between the figure and the background is preferred.

In contrast to a strong preference for similar color combinations, some people like to accent with a highly contrasting color. A study on preference for color inNike, Inc. sneakers, people generally combined colors near each other on the color wheel, such as blue and dark blue. This finding has relevance for companies that produce multicolored merchandise. To appeal to consumer preferences, companies should consider minimizing the number of colors visible and use similar hues in a single product.

Color name

Different colors can be perceived in different ways as well as the name of those colors.For example cosmetics brands produce a rainbow for eye shadow and nail polish colors for every type of person. The companies such as Apple Inc. and Dell make iPods and laptops with color personalization to attract buyers. It was proven the color name, not only the actual color, can actually attract or repel buyers as well. The studies have shown that fancy color names such as Mocha was rated as a significantly more likeable than items with generic names such as Brown.This shows a greater favorability for fancy names compared to generic names for exactly the same colors.Fancy names are not only liked more, but cause the product to be liked more, hence increasing purchasing intent.

Jelly beans with atypical color names, such as showiness, were more likely to be chosen than jelly beans with typical names such as lemon yellow. This could be due to greater interest in the atypical names and willingness to figure out why that name was given. Purchasing intent of custom sweatshirts from an online provider also showed preference for atypical names. Participants were asked to imagine buying sweatshirts and were provided with a variety of color options, some typical, some atypical. Colors that were atypical were selected more than colors that were typical, showing a preference to purchase items with atypical color names. Those who chose atypical colors were also more content with their choice than those who chose typical color sweatshirts.


It was agreed by Davis Masten Image Net say that packaging of products is done to reflect what consumers want to be, not what they really are. That is why you see elegant looking people on the front of coffee jars and not “frumpy looking Americans in bathrobes on the label. Color has shown to be a very useful tool when it comes to advertising products.

Store and display Color

Color is not only used in products to attract attention, but also in window displays and stores. When people are exposed to different colored walls and images of window displays and store interiors they tend to be drawn to some colors and not to others. Findings showed that people were physically drawn to warm colored displays, however, rated cool colored displays as more favorable. This implies that warm colored store displays are more appropriate for spontaneous and unplanned purchases, whereas cool colored displays and store entrances may be a better fit for purchaseswhere a lot of planning and customer deliberation occurs. This is especially relevant in shopping malls were patrons could easily walk into a store that attracts their attention without pervious planning.

Other research has confirmed that store color, and not just the product, influences buying behavior. When people are exposed to different store color scenarios and then surveyed on intended buying behavior store color, among various other factors, seems important for purchasing intentions. Particularly blue, a cool color, was rated as more favorable and produced higher purchasing intentions than orange, a warm color. However, all negative effects to orange were neutralized when orange store color was paired with soft lighting. This shows that store color and lighting actually interact.

Consumer Behavior Individual differences

➢ Gender

Children's toys are often categorized as either boys or girls toys solely based on color. In a study on color affects on perception adult participants were shown blurred images of children’s toys where the only decipherable feature visible was the toy's color. In general participants categorized the toys into girl and boy toys based on the visible color of the image. This can be seen in companies interested in marketing masculine toys, such as building sets, to girls. For example, Legouses pink to specifically advertise some sets to girls rather than boys. The classification of 'girl' and 'boy' toys on the Disney Store website also uses color associations for each gender. An analysis of the colors used showed that bold colored toys, such as red and black, were generally classified as 'boy only' toys and pastel colored toys, such as pink and purple, were classified as 'girl only' toys. Toys that were classified as both boy and girl toys took on 'boy only' toy colors. This again emphasizes the distinction in color use for children's toys.

Gender differences in color associations can also be seen amongst adults. Differences were noted for male and female participants, where the two genders did not agree on which color pairs they enjoyed the most when presented with a variety of colors. Men and women also did not agree on which colors should be classified as masculine and feminine. This could imply that men and women generally prefer different colors when purchasing items. Men and women also misperceive what colors the opposite gender views as fitting for them.

➢ Age

Children’s toys for younger age groups are often marketed based on color, however, as the age group increases color becomes less gender-stereotyped. In general many toys become gender neutral and hence adopt gender-neutral colors. In the United States it is common to associate baby girls with pink and baby boys with blue. This difference in young children is a learned difference rather than in inborn one. Research has looked at young children’s, ages 7 months to 5 years, preference for small objects in different colors. The results showed that by the age of 2 – 2.5 years socially constructed gendered colors affects children’s color preference, where girls prefer pink and boys avoid pink, but show no preference for other colors.

Slightly older children who have developed a sense of favorite color often tend to pick items that are in that color. However, when their favorite color is not available for a desired item children choose colors that they think matches the product best. Children's preferences for chocolate bar wrappers showed that although one third of the children picked a wrapper of their favorite color, the remaining two thirds picked a wrapper they perceived as fitting the product best. For example most children thought that a white wrapper was most fitting for white chocolate and a black wrapper for most fitting for a dark chocolate bar and therefor chose those options for those two bars. This appliaction can be seen in The Hershey Company chocolate bars where the company stragtegically has light wrappers for white chocolate and brown wrappers for milk chcolate, making the product easily identifiable and understandable.

➢ Culture

Many cultural differences exist on perceived color personality, meaning, and preference. When deciding on brand and product logos, companies should take into account their target consumer, since cultural differences exist. A study looked at color preference in British and Chinese participants.Each participant was presented with a total of 20 color swatches one at a time and had to rate the color on 10 different emotions. Results showed that British participants and Chinese participants differed on the like-dislike scale the most. Chinese participants tended to like colors that they self rated as clean, fresh, and modern, whereas British participants showed no such pattern. When evaluating purchasing intent, color preference affects buying behavior, where liked colors are more likely to be bought than disliked colors.This implies that companies should consider choosing their target consumer first and then make product colors based on the targets color preferences.

VI. Conclusion

The following are the findings of the study:

• Color is used as a means to attract consumer attention to a product that then influences buying behavior. Consumers use color to identify for known brands or search for new alternatives. In branding name, variety seekers look for non-typical colors when selecting new brands. And attractive color packaging receives more consumer attention than unattractive color packaging, which can then influence buying behavior.

• Companies should decide what types of products to produce and then choose a logo color that is connotative with their products’ functions.

• Company Logos can portray meaning just through the use of color

• Color affects peoples’ perceptions of a new or unknown company.

• Different colors are perceived to mean different things. It gives perceived colorsSensory-Social (S):conveys attitudes, status, or social approval

Functional (F): fulfills a need or solves a problem.

• Color is not only used in products to attract attention, but also in window displays and stores

• Brands and marketers use color psychology to affect our behavior

VII. Recommendation

Marketers must be aware of the application of color in different media (e.g. print vs. web), as well as the varying meanings and emotions that a particular audience can assign to color. Even though there are attempts to classify consumer response to different colors, everyone perceives color differently. The physiological and emotional effect of color in each person is influenced by several factors such as past experiences, culture, religion, natural environment, gender, race, and direct messages and secondary brand values and attributes in any communication. Color should be carefully selected to align with the key message and emotions being conveyed in a piece.

Research on the effects of color on product preference and marketing shows that product color could affect consumer preference and hence purchasing culture. Most results show that it is not a specific color that attracts all audiences, but that certain colors are deemed appropriate for certain products.


Riley, Charles A. II. “Color Codes: Modern Theories of Color in Philosophy, Painting and Architecture, Literature, Music, and Psychology”. Hanover: University Press of New England, 1995

Bottomley, P.A.; Doyle, J.R. (2006)."The interactive effects of colors and products on perceptions of brand logo appropriateness". Marketing Theory

O'Connor, Z. "Logo colour and differentiation: A new application of colour mapping". Color Research & Application

Labrecque, L.I.; Milne, G.R. (2011). "Exciting red and competent blue: the importance of color in marketing". Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science

Skorinko, J.L.; Kemmer, S., Hebl, M.R., Lane, D.M. (2006). "15. A Rose by Any Other Name...: Color-Naming Influences on Decision Making". Psychology & Marketing 23


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