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Influence of Color

Color is everywhere, but how does it affect us? It's already been proven that color can influence our mood, our memory retention, and even the taste of our food. The more we learn, the more we realize the possibilities and benefits of incorporating color knowledge into our daily lives.

Marketing companies claim that people can make a subconscious judgment about a person, environment, or item within 90 seconds of initial viewing based 62%-90% on the influence of color alone.

Pantone's research discovered that a yellow background with black type is the best color combo for printed material. Tests showed this combination scored the highest in memory retention and in legibility. It was also the color that the human eye noticed first.

The medical field has also benefited from color research. Although it has been recognized by the AMA for sometime that violet/indigo/purple light corrects jaundice, it was more recently discovered by Washington State University that people can tolerate more pain, recover more quickly from surgery, and use fewer drugs when they are in a room with a lot of greenery.

Evidently, humans aren't the only ones influenced by color. The US Agricultural Research Service Center showed that using red plastic sheeting under tomato and cotton plants produced a 15-20% higher yield than those grown with traditional black or clear plastic and that turnips grown under blue plastic had an improved flavor compared to those grown under green sheets. Also, those grown under the blue plastic revealed a higher concentration of glucocinolates and vitamin C.

When it comes to research on the affect of environmental color on the brain, the scientific conclusions become more controversial. Though initial exposure to environmental color

influence does seem to generate a given response, experiments have shown it to be short lived. Take for example, the prison cells that were painted pinkish-orange. Initially they did give a response of curbed violence, but when revisited a few weeks later, seemed to have no effect. Researchers believe this is due to the fact that homeostasis takes over and negates the effect. In other words, they adjust to the color influence. In fact, some prisoners appeared to end up in an even more agitated state.

It has been found that blue can decrease the heart rate and have a calming effect, but once again, only in moderation. Over exposure showed to have the opposite effect.

Some color studies have shown that blue/green makes you eat slower while yellow/orange/red makes you eat faster and more. (Ever notice the colors inside a fast food restaurant?)

Another study showed that over exposure to yellow can make you irritable.

As far as personality types and their optimal environmental colors, studies have shown that extroverts do better surrounded by brighter colors and monochromatic colors tend to agitate them. The opposite was found true for introverts.

Along the same line, some have concluded that the combination black-red can provoke aggression, black-yellow self-destructive choices, black-green egocentric behavior, and that black-white can precipitate neurotic decisions. (This particular study was done for a large store chain looking to curb shoplifting via color influence by use of interior design.)

MIT's research proved the once disputed importance of color for face recognition by blurring images so the brain would have to rely on solely on color to distinguish identity.

It seems that the study of color does indeed merit additional research. Though individual influences and preferences will always vary, a general understanding of the influence of color can only serve to enhance our lives and probably those of our vegetable gardens too.

Below are few facts about color;

• Color/light can penetrate your body – it has even been detected in the brain of a living sheep.

• Your skin is your largest photoreceptor, absorbing more color/light than your eyes.

• Pink can cause muscle weakness within 2.7 seconds after exposure. It is believed to affect the endocrine system almost immediately.

• Color/light can affect the immune system.

• Color/light therapy is used for treating jaundice in premature babies.

• Light-based therapies are used for treating disorders such as psoriasis.

• Experiments have shown that red light can kill the HIV virus in blood.

• Researchers are studying a new generation of drugs that work by interacting with light to target specific areas of the body.

• Red light has been used as a wound healer and has been shown to stimulate production of cell tissue and promote the regeneration of skin and blood tissue.

• Is red really exciting? Controlled experiments have shown that red does not cause anymore excitement or arousal than any other color.

• Is red a "warm" color? It has been taught to believe red is warm because of its psychological associations with fire and heat .

• Red is a significant color in every culture on earth.

• It was once thought the fat of a dead red-haired person (presumed to be of fiery temper) would make a good poison.

• Yellow is considered a cheery, sunny color by Western cultures.

• Yellow is associated with death in some Asian cultures.

• Yellow is the first color to be noticed which is why it is now becoming a popular choice for fire trucks in some areas.

• The first flowers to bloom in spring are often yellow: the daffodil, crocus, primrose and forsythia.

• During the 10th century the Chinese adopted yellow as the Imperial color. It was reserved for only the emperor and those he selected by imperial order.

• In 16th century Spain yellow became known as a color of heresy and treason. The punishment for wearing yellow was burning alive.

• In nature yellow means "warning." Poisonous creatures are often colored yellow.

• The combination of yellow and black warns of special caution (consider bees and wasps) - it was selected for the nuclear radiation warning symbol because of the natural associations with caution and danger.

• Black represents the unknown, maximum darkness, the negation of color. Black is not a color. Black is a neutral.

• Does black make you look slimmer? No–not unless you're standing against a black wall. If you are wearing black and the background is a light color you will look larger. An object is judged in relationship to its similarity or contrast with its background.

• Black carries negative language connotations such as blackmail, black list, blackball, black market, black sheep.

• Black is often the garb of the revoutionary, from beatniks to punks.

• A black room like the one on the right may be considered sophisticated, strange or downright evil depending on our personal biases and perceptions.