Color psychology is the study of color on human emotion, cognition, and behavior. Research reveals a distinct and measurable relationship between color stimuli and human emotional response. This paper seeks to add to the body of literature by focusing on applications of color psychology in life coaching. The goal of life coaching is to inspire clients to reach their highest potential. Color psychology can be used to this end.
Color psychology is the study of the effect of color on mood, mind, and emotion. The subject has been defined as "the way humans think about and equivocate color with sensations and emotions," ("Lesson 5: Color Psychology," n.d.). However, color psychology also has concrete behavioral, cognitive, and counseling psychology applications. Until recently, most of the research on color psychology on human behavior has fallen within the rubric of marketing. Yet color psychology also has a broader application in fields such as counseling psychology and environmental psychology. This research focuses on the role of color psychology in the area of life coaching. Like other fields within the psychology rubric, life coaching is a practice designed and developed to help clients reach their highest potential.
The author has been a practicing life coach, a field that is both personally and professionally rewarding. Clients include males and females from different walks of life, and at different stages in life. I began this research with the premise that color psychology can enhance the life coaching process, and that life coaches should consider incorporating color psychology into their practice.
Review of Literature
Literature in the area of color psychology focuses mainly on two fields: marketing and learning. However, there are some general studies that reveal the potential for color psychology on the field of life coaching. For example, a life coach will see a diverse range of clients from different cultural backgrounds. Adams & Osgood (1973) found that there are significant cross-cultural similarities with regards to perceptions of different colors. "There are strong universal trends in the attribution of affect in the color domain," (Adams & Osgood, 1973, p. 135). However, not all research substantiates the claim that color perception is universal. There are distinct cultural differences with regards to certain colors and their appropriateness in certain situations. The most obvious is the fact that white is a color of purity used in European wedding dresses; whereas white is bad luck in Chinese cultures. Chinese cultures tend to favor red for weddings ("Lesson 5: Color Psychology, n.d.). White represents death for many Chinese people, something that life coaches need to be aware of when making proscriptions for their Asian clients ("Lesson 5: Color Psychology," n.d.). Black might evoke universally "negative" responses in various cultures ("Lesson 5: Color Psychology," n.d.).
The colors that have been researched the most in color psychology literature include red and blue. Red appears to have a net negative impact on study participants across various domains. Elliot & Maier (2007) found "a brief glimpse of red evokes avoidance motivation and undermines intellectual performance, and that it has these effects without conscious awareness or intention," (p. 250). Similarly, Stone (2001) found a significant difference in student performance in red vs. blue environments. In particular, "positive mood was slightly higher when students studied in a blue carrel compared to a red carrel…Performance was significantly lower on the reading task in the red environment."
Blue has been described as a "calming" color "said to decrease respiration and lower blood pressure ("Color Psychology: The Emotional Effects of Colors," 2012). Some research indicates that blue has benefits beyond just its calming effects. "Blue is universally the best color as it has the most positive and fewest negative cultural associations across various cultures," ("Lesson 5: Color Psychology," n.d.). .Purple "utilizes both red and blue to provide a nice balance between stimulation and serenity that is supposed to encourage creativity," ("Color Psychology: The Emotional Effects of Colors," 2012). The difference between "warm" and "cool" colors have also been studied for their effects on human emotion and behavior; as expected, cool colors tend to be more calming and warm colors tend to be energizing ("Color Psychology: The Emotional Effects of Colors, 2012).
Bellizzi, Crowley & Hasty (1983) found "color can produce certain autonomic biological reactions, create certain emotional responses, and obtain attention," (p. 21-22). The attention the researchers refer to is consumer attention on target goods. Colors have distinct and measurable effects on consumer behavior. This effect is as relevant for a retail shopping environment as it is for product packaging. "Color can physically attract shoppers toward a retail display" (Bellizzi, Crowley & Hasty, 1983, p. 21). Singh (2006) found, "people make up their minds within 90 seconds of their initial interactions with either people or products. About 62-90% of the assessment is based on colors alone," (p. 783).
Color psychology also has new age applications. For example, one new age definition of color psychology is: "how colors affect our emotions, our moods, our health, our well being, our energy, our mind and our spiritual awareness at both a conscious and subconscious level," ("Color Psychology to Empower and Inspire You," n.d.).
Research on color psychology can be applied to the field of life coaching. Because research shows that perceptions of colors is universal among different cultures and genders, color psychology can be applied in a simple and straightforward way in coaching practice. A life coach can apply research in color psychology to office design as well as to recommendations for clients. Because they are calming and soothing, blues are ideal for waiting rooms in offices. Clients who have trouble with hyperactivity or hypertension would also benefit from exposure to blue environments, and can be coached to re-paint their own offices or homes accordingly.
Diagnosing or assessing client needs can be easier with color psychology. The life coach can pay close attention to what color clients wear, keeping a log in client notes. If necessary, the life coach can make recommendations for wardrobe changes as well as interior design changes. Clients who need to raise self-esteem and motivation would benefit from exposure to warmer colors, veering towards the occasional red accent. A useful guide for which colors to use in a life coaching scenario is available online as well as in books. For example, "Lesson 5: Color Psychology" is available at [http://www.uvsc.edu/disted/decourses/dgm/2740/IN/steinja/lessons/05/l05_08.html] and can be printed for client reference.
Knowledge of color psychology empowers the life coach to make the best decisions. Clients can also empower themselves with increased knowledge of color psychology. Color psychology can be incorporated into a meditation practice, whereby clients visualize the target color. Visualizing breathing in a certain color can become part of a daily practice to enrich and change lives. Life coaches who also practice hypnotherapy can use color psychology to help clients to meditate on certain colors that would benefit them.
Life coaching is a rewarding practice that can positively transform and enrich lives. The research on color psychology should be incorporated into any life coaching practice. Blue does seem to have the most universally positive applications, as there are few cultural barriers to blue as there might be for red, black, and white. However, the life coach should address each client's needs on an individual basis. For example, some clients might need to incorporate more white into their life palettes, whereas some Asian clients might find that advice distasteful. Color psychology can be applied to client behavioral changes. In addition to using color in personal meditations, clients can change their home and office environments in ways that are conducive to positive change. When the life coach assesses the client's goals, a color psychology profile can be created. This profile is tailor-made for each client. It shows whether clients need greater stimulation (and therefore more reds) or whether clients need calming (and…