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Psychology of Visualization Post 1.2- Food, Sex, and Danger- A Deadly Combination: Color Me This, Color Me That

Post 1.2- Food, Sex, and Danger- A Deadly Combination: Color Me This, Color Me That

The human eye can see 7,000,000 colors. Some of these are eyesores. Certain colors and color relationships can be eye irritants, cause headaches, and wreak havoc with human vision. Other colors and color combinations are soothing. Consequently, the appropriate use of color can maximize productivity, minimize visual fatigue, and relax the whole body.

What is it about red and blue?— When lines (or letters) of different colors are projected or printed, the depths of the lines may appear to be different; lines of one color may “jump out” while lines of another color are recessed. This effect is called Chromostereopsis. This effect is strongest with red and blue, but it can also happen with other colors (for example, red and green).
On the other hand,  ancient cultures like the Egyptians and Chinese, practiced chromotherapy, or the use of colors to heal. Chromotherapy is sometimes referred to as light therapy or colourology and is still used today as a holistic or alternative treatment. In this treatment:

  • Red was used to stimulate the body and mind and to increase circulation.
  • Yellow was thought to stimulate the nerves and purify the body.
  • Orange was used to heal the lungs and to increase energy levels.
  • Blue was believed to soothe illnesses and treat pain.
  • Indigo shades were thought to alleviate skin problems.


So what? –In addition to causing a depth effect, chromostereopsis can also be annoying and hard on the eyes but chromotherapy can stimulate positive cognitive responses. Although there are different theories as to why your eyes react to these color combinations in the way that they do, the important thing to remember is that they do.

What should you do about it? – If you are designing visualizations make sure that you use red and blue together sparingly. Obviously some visualizations do have these colors together (patriotic or Christmas themes to name a few) but try to use these color in moderation or in a lower color saturation hue (which will make the light bouncing into your eyes from the colors not react as strongly).

What is it about red, yellow, and blue/green?Neurologically red is the first color the human eye processes followed by yellow. Red and yellow are followed by either blue or green on the color spectrum. This is different from the matter color spectrum that follows the primary color scheme. Optically white is the mixing of all colors and black is the absence of optic light. When creating visualizations the medium of the visual needs to be taken into account. If the visual is electronic the visual light spectrum (RGB or HEX color codes) should be consulted while printed visuals should consult the matter based primary color spectrum (ROYGBIV).

Yellow is the most irritating-Yellow, pure bright lemon yellow is the most fatiguing color. Why? The answer comes from the physics of light and optics. More light is reflected by bright colors, resulting in excessive stimulation of the eyes. Therefore, yellow is an eye irritant. Some claim that babies cry more in yellow rooms, husbands and wives fight more in yellow kitchens, and opera singers throw more tantrums in yellow dressing rooms. However, these reports  have not been scientifically proven.

Modern Research on Color Psychology-

  • One study found that warm-colored placebo pills were reported as more effective than cool-colored placebo pills.  
  • Anecdotal evidence has suggested that installing blue-colored streetlights can lead to a reduction of crime.
  • The temperature of the environment might play a role in color preference. People who are warm tend to list cool colors as their favorites, while people who are cold prefer warmer colors.
  • Studies have also shown that certain colors can have an impact on performance. Exposing students to the color red prior to an exam has been shown to have a negative impact on test performance.
  • Researchers discovered that the color red causes people to react with greater speed and force, something that might prove useful during athletic activities.
  • Historical data found that sports teams dressed in mostly black uniforms are more likely to receive penalties and that students were more likely to associate negative qualities with a player wearing a black uniform.


Inspired by the page

Main refrence and fantastic read= See Joann and Arielle Eckstutt’s new book The Secret Language of Color.

Other refrences:

Blue streetlights believed to prevent suicides, street crime. (2008, Dec. 11). The Seattle Times. Retrieved from

De Craen, A. J., Roos, P. J., Leonard De Vries, A., & Kleijnen, J. (1996). Effect of colour of drugs: Systematic review of perceived effect of drugs and of their effectiveness. BMJ (Clinical research ed., 313(7072), 1624–1626.

Elliot, A. J., & Maier, M. A. (2007). Color and psychological functioning. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 16(5), 250-254.

Frank, M. G. & Gilovich, T. (1988). The dark side of self and social perception: Black uniforms and aggression in professional sports. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54, 74-83.

O'Connor, Z. (2011). Colour psychology and colour Therapy: Caveat emptor. Color Research & Application, 36 (3), p229-234.

Whitfield, T. W. A., & Wiltshire, T. J. (1990). Color psychology: A critical review. Genetic, Social & General Psychology Monographs, 116(4), 387.


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