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date: 25 May 2022

Abstract and Keywords

The empirical study of the psychology of color dates back to the 19th century. Important in this line of research is the study of color preferences—wherein stimuli are characterized in terms of three properties: hue (i.e., wavelength), saturation (i.e., vividness), and brightness (i.e., black-to-white quality). Whereas early thinkers doubted the possibility of a systematic study of color preferences due to idiosyncrasies and individual differences in participants’ choices, a substantial body of empirical evidence has emerged to demonstrate that there are reliable regularities in color preference. Specifically, in terms of single colors, there is a clear maximum around blue and a clear minimum around yellow—a pattern also observed in animals. In terms of saturation, people tend to prefer more saturated to less saturated colors, particularly in context-free settings. In turn, results regarding brightness are more equivocal, although overall there appears to be a preference for lighter colors. Perhaps more interesting are the reasons for the aforementioned preference patterns, for which a number of theoretical explanations have been put forth based on physiology, psychophysics, emotion, and ecological objects—each of which enjoys some level of empirical support. The psychological study of color preferences is well poised for further advancement, with downstream effects in a number of settings ranging from consumer products to artworks and architecture.

Keywords: color, hue, saturation, brightness, preference

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