The Emotional Intensity of Color: Children vs. Adults

This Progress Report submitted by Bill Rutledge, Amy Agunga, Nadya Donenberg, South Cole [] on 10/26/01.

Our study will concern three colors (the primary colors), portrayed through three unrelated graphic designs, and the varying intensity of emotion that it evokes in an individual. We will focus on the difference of emotional intensity between adults (between the ages of 18 and 25) and children (around the age of 8). Our main research question is as follows: What is the difference of the perception of colors and the emotions they evoke between children and adults. We plan to do a series of "interviews," explained later on in the proposal, in order to collect data.
This topic of colors is interesting to the members of our group because of their significance in the world of architecture (which is our major). We are very interested in learning the affects of color on people’s behavior and actions as this knowledge will play a major role in our designs throughout our college and professional careers.

1. Introduction
We plan to study the intensity of emotion which different colors evoke. We will study this on both children and adults and see if there is any correlation between the two. For our study we will use the colors red, yellow, and blue.
We expect red and yellow to create a more intense reaction from children than from
Adults. Studies show that children respond more to warm colors while adults tend to
respond to cool colors (Birren, Chapter 4). We think adults will have more intense reactions to blue.
The emotional reactions to the different colors will probably vary slightly between adults and children. After researching different studies we predict that red will make children feel very angry (Padgitt). Adults will feel emotions more towards happiness based on the color red (Fehrman, pp.6).
We think yellow will cause children to feel very calm (Padgitt). Adults will either feel happiness or sadness based on the color yellow (Fehrman, pp.8).
Blue will cause kids to feel calm (Padgitt). It will cause adults to feel sad (Fehrman, pp.9)
Each member of our group is majoring in architecture or interior design. In these fields color plays a very important role. It is important to know what affect the colors one uses in their work will have on people using the space. For example, if the color red provokes very intense, angry emotions in kids, it would not be wise to use that color to decorate the interior of an elementary school. If blue makes kids feel calm, this might be a wiser color choice. It is also important for people who do things such as advertisement and fashion design to know what colors create strong responses. We knew we wanted to use color in our study. There have been extensive studies done on color. Some of these studies deal with the emotional effects of color on people in general. Some of them show which colors children are attracted to compared to those which adults are attracted to. We did not find any studies that compare emotional effects of color on children and adults. Nor did we find any studies which showed which colors produce the strongest response. We all felt this would be an interesting topic to do our research on.
Through this project we hope to show the differences between how colors affect these different age groups if there is one. We will also show which colors create the most intense response. We will organize this information in an accessible way for others to view.
This information should turn out to be quite interesting. It may turn out that there will be a significant difference in how color triggers the emotions of different ages. There may be no difference whatsoever. It will also be interesting to see if people in the same age group have different emotions based on the same color.

2. Relevance of our research question:

We have found a variety of literature that focuses on the psychological effects of color. Much research has been conducted in this area, but none of the existing research that we have found explores color from the exact approach that we have chosen to take. Literature Review and citations:

Birren, Faber. Light, Color, and Environment. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Co., 1969.

Chapter four of this book presents the various psychological effects that each color has on a person. According to this book, children respond more to warm colors, whereas adults respond more to cool colors.

Fehrman, Dr. Kenneth R., and Cherie Fehrman. Color: The Secret Influence. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2000.

This book contains a comprehensive list of the emotions and connotations associated with particular colors. For example, adults will feel happiness toward red and sadness toward blue. It presents the view that color biases are taught to us as children, and therefore there is little difference between the way adults and children view color.

Halse, Albert O. The Use of Color In Interiors. McGraw-Hill, Inc., 1978.

This book concentates on how colors effect emotion from a design aspect. It also presents the meanings associated with colors. Children are said to prefer bright colors.

Ladau, Robert F., Brent K. Smith, and Jennifer Place. Color in Interior Design and Architecture. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1989.
Padgitt, Marge. "Children and Color".

This site presents some of the emotions associated with color. For example, red is said to be physically and emotionally stimulating. Too much can produce anger and agression. Yellow, on the other hand, has a calming effect.

Sasaki, Hiroshi. "Color Psychology". 30 April 1991

This site studied the extent to which color conditioning is inborn or culturally conditioned. It stated that in children, red indicates uninhibited expression, and yellow represents a dependency on grownups.

Much of the research that already exists compiles and discusses the various associations that each color brings to mind. The research involving children is often presented in a non- concrete manner. Our survey will attempt to distill the intensity of emotion evoked in both children and adults. The results will be concrete and easily compared, rather than a broad base of information.
None of the studies found through our research has tested exactly what we have chosen to concentrate on. These tests have mostly explored the color preferences of children, and have produced conflicting results. One study found that children prefer primary colors (Halse), whereas another found that by the age of kindergarten, children have already developed a sophisticated taste for color (Fehrman).
Our research answers larger questions, such as what effects the color of our environment can have on the moods of both children and adults. If a certain color is found to be associated with anger, then it can be assumed that this would not be a good color for the inside of a child’s room. It is important to understand the way in which people react emotionally to their environment. Research in this area is especially important to designers, who actively construct the color schemes of our houses, and of the modern world. As our landscape increasingly becomes shaped by artificial boundaries, it is important to note the effect that the appearance of these boundaries has on people.

3. Materials and Methods
We will interview sixty adults and sixty fourth graders. We believe that by interviewing such a vast amount of people we will achieve statistically sound
results. To ensure that our results are unbiased we plan to question fourth graders from different classes in two schools and a wide variety of adults at Miami University. All tests will we done at different times of day, under florescent or natural light to ensure there is not a variance in perception of the same color due to lighting.
We will test the effects of three colors: Blue, Red and Yellow. We selected three graphics and each one will be colored Blue, Red and Yellow. The graphics will be1’ x 1’. We will hold up the signs, or graphics, for five seconds and ask the interviewees to fill out a questionnaire. Only five seconds will be allowed for the viewing of the graphic because a quick glance will provoke purely emotional, not analytical, reactions. The questionnaire will contain four emotions: angry, happy, sad and calm. Each emotion will have the numbers one through ten next to it and the interviewees will be asked to rate the
emotion they are feeling. More than one emotion can be rated by each participant.
We will incorporate the class in our research by interviewing them during class. The class will not be asked to collect any data, they will only be asked to actively participate in the interviews.
It is hard to construct a definite timeline for our research project. At the moment, we are working with the various schools in order to obtain permission to conduct our survey. This permission has not yet been granted, and we cannot proceed with this aspect of the
data collection until it has. We will start gathering the adult research as soon as possible.


Rate the following emotions, according to the effect that the signs have on you.

Angry 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Happy 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Sad 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Calm 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Other______ 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

4. Results
There will be three different colors and three different graphics used, each graphic in each color. Therefore, there will be nine "signs" in all. We are observing reactions to colors; therefore we will assume that the graphic has no emotional affect on the individual (this is why we will use three graphics instead of only one). The intensity of each emotion will be measured. However, the certain emotion is not intrinsically important, only its intensity.
The intensity of the emotions will be measured on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the least intense form of the emotion and 10 being the most intense form. First, the data will be put into two sets of tables- one for children and one for adults. There will be three tables for each set, one table for each color. Each table will record the emotion and its intensity for each graphic. There will be six tables in all.
Bar graphs will be the next way we will show our data. The color will be shown on the x-axis and the intensity of emotion on the y-axis. There will be a set of graphs depicting data that are unique by the graphic they represent.

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