Physiological Response To Color

In 1984 I published a journal article entitled "Physiological Response to Color: A Critical Review" in Color Research and Application, Vol. 9, Number 1, Spring, 1984, pp. 29-36.  It is impractical to reproduce the entire article on this website.  However, since I frequently receive queries on this topic I thought it worth while to provide the above reference and the conclusions at which I arrived in the critical review.


"Does color effect human behavior? Yes.  Do human beings respond physiologically to color?  Yes and perhaps.  There is no question that there are physiological responses to color.  If there were not, we would not see color.  But color vision was not the subject of this review.  The question was, are there nonvisual responses to color that can affect our behavior?  Clearly, there are some, for example, the effect of colored light on hyperbilirubinemia (jaundice).   It has been shown that red radiation is more conducive to producing epileptic seizures than blue light.  Indeed, it has been suggested that wearing spectacles that eliminate long wavelengths would be helpful in preventing epileptic seizures.  The research on alpha-wave suppression due to colored light  is more ambiguous.  A reasonable hypothesis is that these EEG (electroencepholographic) responses are cognitively mediated and are not direct responses.  Likewise, the galvanic skin response (GSR)to colored light is probably cognitively mediated; however, the evidence on this matter is far from conclusive.  It is known that the GSR  is mediated by sweating, which in turn is mediated by emotional arousing of activation responses.

The data on blood pressure, respiration, and heart rate are inconclusive.  There was only one investigation that used eyeblink frequency.  Gerard found the greatest frequency to red, less to white and least to blue.   These results bear replication.  Indeed, research on physiological responses to color has not been very active for several years.  There is much more basic research to be done so that more effective  use of color can be made in our environment.

The reader is cautioned that the above conclusions were reached in 1983 and may be out of date.  Although, I have not been made aware of any dramatic changes in the scientific literature.  Further, it is strongly advised that before running off with the above conclusions that one read the original article first.  If you are unable to find Color Research and Application in your library request it from the Inter-library Loan Department.

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