“Colours are lights suffering and joy” That was a quote from the Theory of Colours,
published back in 1810 by Goethe, a German writer. He wrote about how colours are perceived
by humans, how they make us think and feel. “Red conveys an impression of gravity and
dignity, and at the same time of grace and attractiveness.” “The appearance of blue is
gloomy and melancholy.” “Yellow carries with it the nature of brightness, and has a serene,
softly exciting character.” Goethe’s definition of colour by our experience
of it was dismissed by the scientific community, physicists like Newton knew colour was wavelengths
of visible light. But Goethe’s colour wheel is beautiful in
it’s simplicity and in it’s recognition of how our environment affects our psychological
states. Let’s fast forward 200 or so years. In somewhere
like Times Square, vibrant, plentiful colour is just part of the landscape. Our use of
colour has evolved from the realm of artists to the art of persuasion. Colour plays a huge role in recognising brands,
advertisements and creating the store environments that influence our purchases so much. Research shows red creates a sense of urgency,
it increases our heart rate and leads to spontaneous purchases. Blue is calm, cool and leads us
to be more well-considered in our spending. Researchers found a correlation between pleasant
emotions and the wavelength of a colour, so people felt more pleasant when they were exposed
to short wavelength colours, like blue. One study even looked at how blue and red
influence our shopping behaviour. Two stores were constructed, one with a red colour scheme
and one with a blue colour scheme. Participants were given some money and the task of buying
a TV. It was found there were longer browsing times and more purchases in the blue store. Another study found that shoppers are 15%
more likely to return to a store with blue color schemes than those with orange color
schemes. But these studies just group colours and effects
together. What about brightness and saturation, the intensity of a colour? And of course there’s
more than colour involved, there’s influences like smell, music, temperature and salespeople. Atmospherics is the conscious designing of
space, including all of those things, to create specific effects in buyers… really the effect
of buy, buy, buy and come back soon to buy more. Supermarkets, for example, consider
the height of shelving, the intensity of lights and the style of floors to try and create
a rustic, marketplace feel, so you’re comfortable. And buy more. As more and more people now shop online, atmospherics
and the art of persuasion are evolving into more of a science. Researchers are monitoring
the brain activity of their participants while they’re browsing and shopping online. One study used fMRI and showed subjects a
number of potential products, like different types of chocolate. They found the activation
in a certain brain area (NAcc), normally associated with reward processing, was positively correlated
with their decision to buy the product. There are lots of factors in an online environment
that lead to the activation of this area, and your purchase. Some factors you tend to
notice, like design cues such as where the text is placed on the screen. Studies have
shown that text placed to the right of the item can have more influence on someone buying
it than text placed on the left side. But ambient cues, like music and colour, are thought
to be processed subconsciously. Another study showed that a couch sold twice
as well when a furniture website had a blue background than when it had a green one. Researchers
said perhaps the green background reminded people of money and made them more reserved,
where the blue triggered a relaxed state of mind. This may all seem trivial, but colour has
been shown to influence our mood, behaviour and what we buy, whether it’s in store or
online. And 200 (or so) years after Goethe we’re still asking questions about just how
colour affects emotion. Back in the 1800s he said “We shall not be
surprised to find that colour’s effects are immediately associated with the emotions of
the mind.” It’s just a few years too late for Goethe
to be tickled pink with some supporting evidence. If you haven’t already, subscribe to BrainCraft!
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