BY JACK DINI – Color influences us in many ways. If affects our moods, eating habits, sports activities, and many other aspects of our daily lives.

The color of the sky and the oceans, blue is one of the most popular colors. It causes the opposite reaction as red. Peaceful, tranquil blue causes the body to produce calming chemicals, so it is often used in bedrooms.  Fashion consultants recommend wearing blue to job interviews because it symbolizes loyalty. People are more productive in blue rooms. Studies show weightlifters are able to handle heavier weights in blue gyms. (1)

Bright white light has the power to mitigate depressions and other maladies of mood. However, an emergent recent literature suggests that blue light may be particularly potent for such applications. Blue light has the power to reset our own clocks. Although most visible wavelengths can reset the clock, the blues do the job with the greatest efficiency. Blue light-emitting goggles, panels and other devices are used to treat problems such as sleep disorders, jet lag, seasonal affective disorder, and premenstrual syndrome. Researchers have shown that  in humans  light influences hormone secretion, heart rate, alertness, sleep propensity, body temperature, and gene expressions. Moreover, in such studies, blue wavelengths have been found to exert more powerful effects than green wavelengths. (2)

Blue streetlights are believed to be useful in preventing suicides and street crime, a finding that is encouraging an increasing number of railway companies to install blue light-emitting apparatus at stations to prevent people from committing suicide by jumping in front of trains. Glascow, Scotland, introduced blue street lighting to improve the city’s landscape in 2000. Afterward, the number of crimes in areas illuminated in blue noticeably decreased.  Nara, Japan, prefectural police set up blue street lights in the prefecture in 2005 and found the number of crimes decreased by about 9 percent in blue-illuminated neighborhoods. (3) Other Japanese railway operators are installing special blue lights above station platforms in the hope will have a soothing effect and reduce suicides. The lights, which are brighter than standard fluorescent bulbs, bathe the platform below in an eerie blue light. They hang at the end of each platform, a spot where people are most likely to throw themselves in front of a speeding train. (4)

Colors affect the perceived action of a drug and seem to influence their effectiveness. Red, yellow and orange are associated with a stimulant effect, while blue and green are related to a tranquilizing effect. (5)

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University examined how various aspects of people’s environments affected their eating habits. They discovered that when the walls were colored light blue or green, forty percent of people chewed their food more and ate less. When the walls were red, yellow, or orange, chewing rates went down and food consumption went up. Perhaps that’s why so many fast food restaurant designers choose these colors, suggests Joe Schwarcz. (6)

The color of sportswear has been shown to influence the outcome of several different sports. Studies on effects of success in team sports show that wearing red enhances performance in a variety of competitive contexts. (7) By contrast, people have strongly negative unconscious reactions to black uniforms. Teams with black are overwhelmingly likely to rank near the top of their leagues in penalties. (8)

Color and a number of other cues including weather,  symbols and images,  have a surprising ability to influence how we think, feel, and decide. As Adam Alter notes, “Once we understand what those cues are and how they shape our mental lives, we’re better equipped to harness or discount them.” (9)


  1. David Johnson, “Color Psychology,”, accessed December 27, 2008
  2. David C. Holzman, “What’s in a color? The unique human health effects of blue light,” Environmental Health Perspectives, 118, A22, 2010
  3. “Blue street lights may prevent crime, suicide,” Contra Costa Times, December 11, 2008, Page A14
  4. Shino Yuasa “A push to limit train suicides,” San Francisco Chronicle, November 5, 2009, Page A5
  5. Anton J. M. de Craen, et al., “Effect of color of drugs: systematic review of perceived effect of drugs and of their effectiveness,” British Medical Journal, 313, 1624, 1996
  6. Joe Schwarcz, The Genie in the Bottle, (New York, Henry Holt & Co., 2002), 254
  7. M. J. Attrill, “Red Shirt color is associated with long-term success in English football,” Journal of Sports Science, 26(6), 577, 2008
  8. Mark G. Frank and Thomas Gilovich, “The dark side of self and social perception: Black uniforms and aggression in professional sports,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54, 74, 1988
  9. Adam Alter, “We are blind to much that shapes our mental life,” in This Will Make You Smarter, John Brockman, Editor, (New York, Harper Perennial, 2012) 150