Color psychology suggests that colors can have a powerful impact on our moods and even behaviors.1 Each color supposedly has its own effect, but the feeling that each color produces can vary based on experience and culture. Purple is one color that can lead to differing feelings, emotions, and associations.
How does the color purple make you feel? People often describe this color as mysterious, spiritual, and imaginative.2 Purple tends to occur rarely in nature, so it is viewed as rare and intriguing. Purple is a combination of blue and red.
So what are some of the most common associations people have with the color purple? Like many other colors, the feelings that the color purple evokes are often due to cultural associations.
Because purple is so strongly associated with royalty, people often perceive it as being a very regal color. These associations with royalty were originally due to the fact that the Phoenician purple dye that was used in ancient times was very rare and extremely expensive. These associations with extravagance and aristocracy persist to this day.3
Purple is the symbol of royalty and wealth. In ancient times, creating dyes to color fabric often required a great deal of effort and expense, especially for certain colors.3 Because purple is less common in nature, the resources needed to create a dye in this color were much harder to come by and much more costly.
The color purple became associated with wealth and royalty because very often the rich were the only individuals who could afford such expensive items.
Around 1200 B.C.E., the city of Tyre along the coast of ancient Phoenicia began producing purple dye by crushing the shells of a small sea snail.
The resulting color became known as Tyrian purple and was so well known it was mentioned in Homer’s “Iliad” and Virgil’s “Aeneid.” Alexander the Great and the kings of Egypt also wore clothing colored with the famous Tyrian purple.
This connection with royalty was not just restricted to ancient times. Purple was the color of choice for the Purple Robe of Estate worn by Queen Elizabeth II on her way back to Buckingham Palace following her coronation in 1953.
Purple also represents wisdom and spirituality. Its rare and mysterious nature perhaps causes it to seem connected to the unknown, supernatural, and divine.
Different shades of purple have different spiritual meanings. For instance, light purples are associated with light-hearted, romantic energies while darker shades can represent sadness and frustration. In some parts of Europe, purple is associated with death and mourning.
In the U.S., the Purple Heart is one of the highest honors for bravery in military service. The award, originally called the Badge of Military Merit, was created in 1782 by George Washington to give to soldiers for commendable action. The color represents courage and bravery.
Since purple does not often occur in nature, it can sometimes appear exotic or artificial. For this reason, it tends to be quite a polarizing color. People tend to either really love purple or really hate it.
Visually, purple is one of the most difficult colors to discriminate. It also has the strongest electromagnetic wavelength, being just a few wavelengths up from x-rays and gamma rays.6 For this reason, it is often used in visual illusions such as the lilac chaser illusion.
In writing, the phrase “purple prose” is sometimes used to describe writing that is extremely imaginative or even prone to exaggeration, hyperbole, or outright lies.
Responses to the color purple can vary considerably from one person to the next, but many feel that the color seems royal yet mysterious.
Notice how purple is used in the image that accompanies this article. Consider how the color purple makes you feel. Do you associate purple with certain qualities or situations?
Color psychology suggests that different colors can evoke psychological reactions. For example, color is thought to have an impact on our moods and emotions.1 Sometimes these reactions are related to the intensity of a color, while in other cases they are the product of experience and cultural influences.
How does the color green make you feel? For many people, it has strong associations with nature and immediately brings to mind the lush green of grass, trees, and forests. Green is often described as a refreshing and tranquil color.
In color psychology, colors made up of longer wavelengths are considered “arousing, or warm,” whereas colors of shorter wavelengths are “relaxing or cool.”2
Green is a cool color because it has shorter wavelengths. While our eyes need to adjust to see colors with longer wavelengths, they don’t need to adjust at all to see cool colors like green.1
Green often symbolizes nature and the natural world. It is thought to represent tranquility. Other common associations with the color green are money, good luck, health, envy or jealousy, and environmental awareness. In some cases, green can represent physical illness, such as the phrase “turning green” indicates.
In ancient mythology, green was used to reference the fertility of the earth as well as the fertility of women.4 Studies have shown that the color green may inspire creativity, too.
The color green may positively impact our thinking, our relationships, and our physical health.6 Green is thought to relieve stress and help heal.
It has been found that green can even improve reading ability. One study shows that a green light environment improved reading ability in participants, whereas a red light environment reduced reading ability.7 https://56b07a4b363fbae04249c51b83ee0a5f.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
Shades of green found in nature may help put us at ease in a new place.1 For this reason, designers often feature the color green in public spaces like restaurants and hotels.
One study found a “green exercise effect” on participants who exercised indoors while watching a video of outdoor space with a green-colored overlay
They experienced less mood disturbance and less perceived exertion compared to when they watched the same video with a red overlay and with a gray overlay.
Green’s calming effects may be due to its associations with nature, which people often feel is relaxing and refreshing. Some researchers think our positive association with green is “hard-wired” in our brains from evolution; early humans knew that green in nature indicates a place where food, water, and shelter can be found.
Spending time in natural green environments or even looking at pictures of green scenery in nature has been linked to stress relief, better impulse control, and improved focus
Since green has such strong ties to nature, we may be more likely to perceive something green as healthy and natural, even when it isn’t.
For instance, one study found that people were more likely to consider a candy bar with a green label as a healthier option than a candy bar with a red label, even when the nutrition of the two bars was identical.
While some find green a relaxing color, others find that it motivates them. One study found that people with a “high need for achievement” more consistently chose the color green over the color red, which was more often chosen by those with a “low need for achievement.”12
This might be due to the cultural influence on perceptions of red and green. For instance, the color red is often a warning associated with danger (such as a stoplight), whereas the color green indicates a situation is safe (a green light).
Participants in the study also associated words related to failure with the color red, and words related to success with the color green. This may be another cultural influence at play since green is commonly associated with financial success—money itself is green.
Your own reaction to the color green is highly personal. Past experiences, as well as personal and cultural associations, can all play a role in how this color makes you feel.
The color green is also thought to have an impact on our creativity. Research has shown that people’s creativity is likely to increase when they are surrounded by green plants and have access to green views of nature
Color has been found to influence not only our emotions but our memories. One study provided a group of people with a list of emotionally charged words written in different colors.
The members of the group were then asked to recall specific words. They were more likely to recall positive words that were written in green, leading researchers to conclude green carries more positive emotional connotations. Therefore, the color green might give us an optimism bias when it comes to remembering information.
Green is often associated with Irish culture, St. Patrick’s Day, and good luck. Interestingly, one study found green may really be a good luck charm. Participants who were exposed to the color green experienced increased feelings of hope and decreased fear of failure.
For as much as green is associated with positive feelings, it may also indicate jealousy or envy. You’ve probably heard the expression “green with envy.” There are different theories as to where this saying comes from.
Green can also be an indicator of a physical illness, such as when someone’s complexion turns green.3 Some believe the link between green and illness created the association between green and envy—as in, envy is an illness of its own.
Since the color green is strongly associated with nature, people often describe it as a natural, fresh, and restful color. However, it is important to remember that all reactions to color are also shaped by cultural influences and individual experiences.
The next time you find yourself observing the color green, whether it is in a room, in a painting, or in an outdoor setting, take a moment to consider the types of emotions and moods that the color tends to evoke.