Sponsored by Missouri Western State University Sponsored by a grant from the National Science Foundation DUE-97-51113
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The proper APA Style reference for this manuscript is:
NORTON, L. L. (2006). What Color is Your Mood. National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse, 9. Available online at http://www.webclearinghouse.net/volume/. Retrieved December 9, 2023 .

What Color is Your Mood

Sponsored by: PATRICIA MARSH (pmarsh1@missouriwestern.edu)
This study will investigate how color is associated with mood. This study will include approximately 75 students from a Midwest university these students received a happy or sad story to read. After reading the story the participants drew the story that they have read on a choice of yellow or brown paper. The data was analyzed by a Chi-Square statistical test to see if there is any association with color and mood.

What Color Is Your MoodIntroduction Colors are apart of everyday life. Colors can be seen in the environment and in clothing. Colors are also associated with many things, such as food. For instances many of the foods that we eat are named after their colors, like orange, and greens. Colors can also be associated with mood. A study by Naz Kaya and Helen Epps (2004) investigated how color and mood are associated. The purpose of this study was to examine how college students associated color with mood. The participants in this study consisted of 98 volunteered college students, 44 male and 54 female. The research was conducted at a public institution in the southwest. The Munsell Color System, which includes ten saturated chromatic (principle) colors were chosen to be used in this research. The colors were: red, yellow, green, blue, purple, yellow-green, blue-green, purple-blue, and purple-red. Also white, black and medium gray were add to the color system. The color samples were prepared by using free hand 10.0 software. The Munsell Color System was also available on a computer program. Each participant was tested individually in an office space, where they were seated at their own personal computer. The procedure of the research went as followed. Each color was displayed in the middle of the computer screen, one at a time, on a neutral gray back ground. The color samples were presented randomly across participants. When the color samples were presented three questions were asked relating to mood. These questions were: what emotional response do you associate with this color, how does this color make you feel and why do you feel this way. The participants were only allowed to use one emotion/mood response for each color. There answers were recorded on an observation sheet. Each session lasted about ten minutes. The results for this research were analyzed by using Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS). Descriptive statistics were used to summarize the data. There were a total of 22 emotion/mood responds from the participants. Some of the responses had the same meaning, such as empty, and void. Other responses overlapped, so they were grouped in the same category, for instance happy, happiness and joy. Because there was low frequencies of emotions in several cells the emotions/moods were coded as positive, negative, or no emotion. Overall 62.2% of the participants expressed positive responses to color, 34.2% expressed negative responses to the colors and 3.6% expressed no response to color. 80% of the positive responses were to the principle hues: red, yellow, green, blue, and purple. On the other hand 17.8% responded negatively to these hues. The achromatic colors had 29.2% of positive responses and 68.4% of negative responses. The participant responded positive to the principle hues, because they said that these colors created feelings of comfort and soothing emotion/moods. The achromatic colors received negative responses because the participant said that these colors made them feel sadness, anger, depression, fear, etc. These colors also reminded the participants of past experiences of death, mourning, tragic events, and nightmares. There is one exception for the achromatic colors, white which received positive responses. White reminded the participant of a bride, snow, doves, and cotton. They also stated that white gave them feelings of innocence, purity, and hope. From the results the researchers concluded that color is associated to emotions/moods through color preference. To elaborate color preferences are associated with whether a color elicits positive or negative feelings. Another study that deals with positive and negative feels and how they are associated with mood was done by Lois B. Wexner (1954). Wexner used words of positive and negative moods to find an association. The hypothesis for this research was there is a positive relation between certain colors and mood. This study used twelve words of moods which consist of exciting, secure, distressed, tender, protective, despondent, calm, dignified, cheerful, defiant, powerful, and sensuous. It also used a list of 164 adjectives. The moods and adjectives were presented to four judges (two males and two females). They were asked to choose words from the list and find adjective that had the same meaning of the moods. The final list of mood and adjectives were: exciting, stimulating; secure, comfortable; distressed, disturbed, upset; tender, soothing; protective, defending; despondent, dejected, unhappy, melancholy; clam, peaceful, serene; dignified, stately; cheerful, jovial, joyful; defiant, contrary, hostile; powerful, strong and masterful. After all the moods and adjectives were prepared the research could be conducted. The research involved 94 general psychology students, 48 female and 46 male. The participants were put into three groups and presented with instructions to select the color that they thought best fit the mood. The colors were at the front of the room on gray colored cardboard. The colors were sheets of construction paper. The colors were yellow, red, green, blue, purple, brown, and black. The results for this study were concluded by statistical analysis using SPSS. The statistical test Chi-Square was used. Colors were grouped together according to their frequencies for each mood. The colors were in the same group because of their association with the mood. For instance, the mood exciting had three groups of colors (A, B, C). In group A red was the most frequent color chosen for this mood, so it was in a group by it self. Yellow and orange were in group B, because they were next with they most frequencies, but not as high as red. According to the statistics the negative moods had high frequencies for dark colors like despondent with black and brown. The positive moods had high frequencies of lighter colors, for example the mood cheerful had high frequencies of yellow. This study also gives some evidence to how mood can be associated with color. David C. Murray and Herdis L. Deabler (1957) also did a study to investigate the association of color and mood. Murray and Deabler did a replication of the Wexner’s study. Majority of the procedure in this study was the same except for the participants. Murray and Deabler did not use the same participants. They used a variety of participants, all coming from different backgrounds. The participants in this study were college students from two different universities, nursing assistants, and neuropsychiatry patients. The participants also had different socioeconomic backgrounds. The same statistical test was used in this study as Wexner’s. The results state that the mood does have an association with color. Many of the moods had high frequencies with the same colors by all the participants. The socioeconomic differences appeared to be a cause for why some moods had different colors chosen by the participants. Murray and Deabler held the same conclusion as Wexner. With socioeconomic difference having a cause for moods not sharing the same colors in the Murray and Deabler study, another study has been done to investigate color and mood association with different cultures. The culture that someone lives in can be a major factor in how they associate a mood with a color. In a study by Ralph B. Hupka et al. (1997) color and mood association was investigated by looking at students from different countries and how they associated color with mood. The students were from Germany, Mexico, Poland, Russia, and the United States. These students were asked to rate the moods of anger, fear, envy, and jealousy with colors: black, brown, gray, green, orange, pink, purple, red, violet, white, and yellow. Once the data was collected statistical analysis of ANOVA were concluded. Overall the participants picked the same mood for the same color. For instance, the color black was picked the most for anger by all of the participants in all of the countries. In this study there was more cross-cultural agreement in color-mood association for the moods of anger and fear than for envy and jealousy. The findings for anger and fear support the position that color and mood have an association. A study on color-mood association in young children was done by Carol Lawler and Edward Lawler in 1965. The purpose of this study was to see if young children would use certain colors to describe a mood. There were a total of 48 children between the ages of 3 and 4 years old who participated in the study. The children were randomly divided into two groups. The first group was labeled the “sad” story, which had 26 children and the second group was labeled the “happy” story, which had 22 children in it. Each child was taken in to a room individually with an experimenter and was shown a picture of a little girl. The picture of girl was an outline of an image that one would find in a coloring book. The experimenter started by telling a story that went along with the picture, depending on if it was happy or sad. In the sad group the children were told a story about a little girl and her dog that died. In the happy group the children were told a story about a little girl who was having a party for her birthday. At the end of the story the experimenter asked the child a question. The happy group was asked if they should be happy for the girl and the sad group was asked if they should be sad for the girl. Next the experimenter had a yellow crayon and a brown crayon sitting next to the picture. The experimenter proceeded by asking each child what crayon they thought the girls dress should be. Then the experimenter recorded the responses of each child. The results of the study were that the yellow crayon was picked more times for the happy story and the brown crayon was picked the most for the sad story. The results in this study conclude that color-mood associations exist in young children. There are many things that this study did not cover. The researchers also did not stated why they divided the children up in an uneven number per group. It also did not state why the yellow and brown crayons were picked as colors to describe mood. Also it did not state if the little girl in the picture was sad are happy. This study had its limitations, but it does give insight on how mood is associated with color by looking at children.The purpose of the present study was to examine color association in college students. The expectations were that participants who read a happy story will chose to draw a picture on the yellow paper and those who read the sad story will chose to draw on the brown paper.

MethodParticipantsThe sample consisted of 78 students (24 male and 54 female) enrolled in an Introductory Psychology course at a Midwest university.MaterialsA packet that contained a survey which included their gender and current mood. A happy story or sad story was counterbalanced in each packet with a sheet of yellow paper and a sheet of brown paper.

ProcedureEach participant received a packet that consists of an informed consent, a survey, a happy or sad story, a yellow sheet of paper and a brown sheet of paper. The participants were asked by their professor to take the packet home and bring it back to the next class to receive extra credit. Once the participant agreed to be in the research they signed the inform consent. Next they were asked to check which gender they were and to circle what mood they were in at the current moment. The moods ranged from excited, happy, sad, or angry. After they circled what mood they were in, they were asked to read either a happy or sad story. Once they finish reading the story, to complete the packet, they were then asked to pick between the yellow or brown paper to draw the story they just read on.

Results Data was analyzed by using the SPSS software program. Chi Square test were used to run the hypothesis that student who received the happy story will chose to draw a picture on the yellow paper and those who read the sad story will chose to draw on the brown paper. There was a significant difference between story and type of paper chosen, ÷2 (1,77) = 7.23, p<.01. The difference is when people read a happy story they are more likely to chose the yellow paper. On the other hand, there was no significant difference in the sad story and brown paper. The hypothesis is only partially true. A graph below demonstrates the results of the analysis.

DiscussionThe primary goal of this study was to investigate the association of mood and color, on how a participant selects a color based upon reading a happy or sad story. The results of this study only found a significant difference with they happy story being drawn on yellow paper. Therefore the hypothesis is partially true, because the brown paper did not have a great significance with the sad story. The limitations for the study are that the hypothesis is only partially true and there needed to be further investigation on how negative moods can be associated with dark colors. Also the arrangement of the color paper could have been counterbalanced, because in all of the packets the yellow paper was on top of the brown paper. Counterbalancing would allow the brown paper to be on top of the yellow paper in every other packet and this could possible result in the sad story being drawn more on the brown paper. This study suggest a partial contributing factor in color- mood association and further research needs to be done in this area.

Reference:Hupka, R., Zaleski, Z., Otto, J., Reidl, L., Tarabrina, N. (1997). The colors of anger, envy, fear, and jealousy. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 28, 156-171.Kaya, N. & Epps, H.(2004) Relationship between color and emotion: A study of college students. College Student Journal, 38, 396-405.Lawler, C. D. & Lawler, E. E. (1965). Color-mood associations in young children. Journal of Genetic Psychology, 107, 29-32.Murray, D.C. & Deabler, H. L. (1957). Colors and mood-tones. Journal of Applied Psychology, 41, 279-283.Wexner, L. B. (1954). The degree to when colors (hues) are associated with mood-tones. Journal of Applied Psychology, 38, 432-435.

Submitted 5/8/2006 3:33:29 PM
Last Edited 5/8/2006 3:36:11 PM
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