Early in life, we learned primary colors — red, blue and yellow — and we’ve never forgotten the colors of the rainbow thanks to ROY G BIV. Once we mastered the basics, we moved on to secondary and tertiary colors. Little did we know then of the impact colors would play in the rest of our lives. Along the way, many people started sporting mood rings, relying on the color change of them to tell us — and everyone else — exactly how we were feeling inside. We now know that has everything to do with the temperature of our bodies, but then again, there’s got to be a reason people get into “heated” arguments or need to “chill.” Colors work upon the same principle in a way, and instead of our mood affecting a ring’s color, it’s now been a long-held belief that colors affect our moods. That could explain why we’re “seeing red” in the middle of those heated arguments.
Scientists have spent years studying the impact of color on mental and emotional states, concluding that we have physical responses to color and that certain colors have a direct tie with our emotions, supposedly causing us to feel certain ways ranging from one end of the spectrum to another. For example, red and orange hues are in the warm color family and can evoke emotions ranging comfort to hostility. On the opposite end of the spectrum, colors like blue and purple are part of the cool color family and can cause a sense of calm, but are also associated with sadness —feeling blue. Of course, some color reactions are rooted in personal history and cultural relevance, but no matter what, we can’t deny the strong hold color has over our psyche.
Skeptical people may think that’s just voodoo and that it’s no different than lighting a green candle for money or a purple one for love, like those you’ll find in a New Age store. While burning colored wax may not help you win the lottery, things like color therapy are now used by psychologists and other similar professions in therapy with patients. There’s certainly plenty of scientific evidence to back up color “psychology.” One study found certain colors influenced cognitive performance. Participants who took tests with red background screens scored better in memory and attention to detail categories, and those with blue backgrounds scored better on tests requiring creative imagination. Red is a more competitive color for athletes, and more attractive to the opposite sex (Lady in Red is dancing with me.)
In a different study, green apparently enhanced creative tendencies. For the most part, that’s nothing new. Numerous experts have proven that color has significant, wide-ranging effects, but to some, that’s old news — and has manifested a fear in some people when it comes to color, like when they’re buying cars of a different color.
The Business of Branding
Retailers worldwide use color to draw in customers. For example, if a brand wants to be seen as powerful, it opts for red — think about Coca-Cola and Virgin Records. Supposedly, red induces hunger, and what better color to complement those golden arches of McDonald’s. Coincidentally, yellow is synonymous with fun. Now you know why our nation can’t stop pulling forward or resist a Big Mac — the red and yellow trays, logos, and even doors are apparently causing us to have some good, old–fashioned fun and causing us to feel famished. Luckily, yellow is also supposed to increase metabolism, and if there’s truth to that, hopefully those Big Macs don’t lead to bigger thighs. Of course those aren’t the only colors McDonald’s is now known for — pink, usually linked with love and Hallmark holidays, supposedly creates a calming effect. Was that the intent of the fast food industry when deciding to use pink slime, crossing their fingers that the slime’s color would somehow curb the rage and disgust people felt after it was revealed? Maybe they were going off research from the ‘70s when Dr. Alexander Schauss discovered that prison inmates showed less hostility when in bubblegum pink rooms. And here we’ve thought pink was just for girls.
Closer to the other end of the spectrum, there’s green. If a company wants to be seen as environmentally friendly, green is the go-to color. Starbucks prides itself on the eco-friendly nature of its coffee business, and natural grocery store Whole Foods was very deliberate in their brand’s color choice. However, even shades of colors matter — consider blue, for example. Certain shades of blue used on logos often produce a sense of calm, but if you use the wrong shade, it may make a business seem cold and unapproachable. The Tiffany& Co teal is automatically recognized, and social media sites like Facebook and Twitter use different shade of blues to convey fun.
Of course, Starbucks and McDonald’s aren’t the only companies manipulating color psychology. Automakers also realize the value of color, offering consumers a range of choices. Surprisingly, many people tend to buy the same color car over and over. An orange car? No thank you! A shopper won’t think twice about shelling out extra money to get the color of car they want. In fact, a 2007 Ford Motor study found that 39% of car buyers would walk out of a dealership if their favored color wasn’t available.
If color is that important, does that mean it affects other things, like your likelihood of getting speeding tickets, and consequently, how much your insurance premiums cost? This has been a widely-debated topic, and has certainly kept a few people from buying cars of certain colors. Based on a 2004 Dupont Automotive Color Popularity Report, the top three car color choices were silver, white, and black, and account for more than 50% of all new cars manufactured. Is that because people are afraid to buy red or yellow cars, having subscribed to the urban legend that red cars get pulled over more often and that insurers charge more for red cars from the start? Is there any truth to that though?
The Age Old Debate
Here’s one of the biggest urban myths debunked — you can drive a car painted with any color of the wind you want. Insurance companies don’t care what color car you drive. They’re more interested in the make, model, and safety features. These are the type of things affecting your likelihood of being in accidents.
Some studies have proven there’s a link between car color and accidents. A 2003 study from the University of Auckland in New Zealand published in the British Medical Journal examined drivers between 1998 and 1999, and found that contrary to popular belief, brown cars had the highest risk of serious injury. Black and green cars also experienced elevated risk, and silver cars proved to be the safest color. While the parameters of the study are not fully revealed, some have made a variety of speculations about it, such as lighter cars possibly being easier to see when driving. One thing is for certain though — red cars won’t cost you more to insure.
The way car color could impact insurance rates isn’t really about you as an individual and your color preferences. Instead, the events leading to increased insurance premiums caused by color could be induced by what other people are driving. For example, red has been proven to cause people to react with more speed and stronger force, so perhaps that’s why you feel compelled to compete with the red Corvette beside you. This could be especially since a 2005 British study linked successful athletes with red. After analyzing the 2004 Olympic games, researchers discovered that more athletes and teams wearing red won more games than teams in colors like blue. Yellow, although commonly perceived as a cheery and bright color, actually makes the eye work harder than other colors because of the large amounts of light reflected from it. In severe cases, researchers have found that eyestrain, including vision loss, was connected to yellow. It draws more notice than most other colors, so yellow cars could easily be your one-way ticket to distracted driving accidents and violations. Essentially, the connection between color and cars can largely be about your response to the colors around you.
What Car Color Says About YOU
Insurance aside — studies still point to the idea that color affects us and our favorite color choices say certain things about our personalities and character. Here are some common personality traits associated with different car colors:
- White: Seen as classic and timeless, white is safe and sensible choice. Owners are typically direct and hard to please. You probably keep your car and house spotless.
- Black: Black is a power color and is often associated with elegance. A driver will not be easily manipulated and appreciates the classics.
- Silver: Still possessing a sense of elegance, silver is also seen as futuristic. A driver will appreciate the fact that this color is seen as prestigious but still modern.
- Red: Time and again, red is the color of sensuality. It demands attention and the driver is no different. Expect an outgoing personality and someone who appreciates standing out from a crowd.
- Blue: Calm and confident describes the driver of a blue car.
The next time you pick something out to wear or somebody asks what your favorite color is, don’t give it too much thought. We’re all subconsciously drawn to certain colors at different times, but knowing what your individual color preferences mean can give you a key into your own personality and to others. When it comes to car color and insurance, there very well may be something to be concerned with, but it’s not necessarily the color of your car. If the colors we see greatly impact us, you could easily find yourself becoming a maniac on the road if the yellow car in front of you doesn’t speed up since yellow allegedly induces anger. If that happens and you cause an accident or receive tickets for acting out your road rage, you’ll be seeing another color too — red when you open up your insurance bill.
Follow Desiree on Twitter @DesireeBaughman.