The Color Psychology of Yellow

The Color Psychology of Yellow, Symbolism & Meaning

The Color Psychology of Yellow

Yellow is a primary color. It sits between orange and green on the color wheel. Being associated with the sun, it stands for optimism, joy, enlightenment, but also for duplicity,  cowardice, betrayal. Colors that relate to yellow are yellow-green and orange. The hex code for yellow is #FFFF00.

The history of color yellow

Yellow was one of the first colors used in art due to the wide availability of yellow ochre pigment. Ancient Egyptians painted their gods in yellow so that it would resemble gold.

From the 14th century onward, yellow has become the color of envy, jealousy, treason, the color that cannot be trusted. Once the color of the sun and gold, yellow became one of the least popular shades.

Its dubious reputation has endured until today; compared to other colors, yellow often  stands as a symbol of negative personality traits.

The psychology of color yellow

Yellow is associated with the intellect, logic; it has the ability to improve analytical thinking. It is also linked with cheerfulness, happiness, optimism. It inspires hope, enthusiasm.

Yellow fosters positive way of thinking, as well as a thirst for knowledge. Its creativeness focuses on mental aspects, it inspires new ways of thinking and acting.

As a practical color, it directs our thoughts to finding solutions to problems, rather than encouraging daydreaming about ideal life.

It also helps with fast decision making, especially in stressful situations, when a mind is clouded with thoughts.

As a non-emotional color, yellow ignores emotions in complex situations, organizes thoughts, and quickly chooses between multiple options. Yellow also promotes energy, optimism, confidence, fun.

The brain releases more serotonin when a person is surrounded by the color yellow, which is why this color stands as a symbol of happiness and positivity. 

The yellow personality type

People who favor color yellow are confident, optimistic, cheerful. They are good communicators and they make friends easily. Even though, they prefer a small circle of close friends, rather than being involved in large social gatherings.

Yellows are known as perfectionists. They have high expectations form themselves and from others. When those expectations are not met, yellows can become very critical and judgmental. Due to their short temper, they can be harsh on themselves and people around them.

Their impulsiveness influences their money spending as well. They make money fast, but they spend it even faster. They find it hard to resist emotional urges to impulsively spend their money on things they don’t really need.

They are loved by others because of their great sense of humor and overall fun personality.

Yellow personality type is also characterized by a high degree of independance; they rely on themselves for emotional stability. Even when emotionally overwhelmed, yellows tend to nurse hurt feelings privately.

That might be the reason why they  are also found to be anxious. They take on too much and never ask for help, even when things go sideways. Yellows don’t mind being alone and they sometimes even prefer being single.

Same as with friends, they pick partners carefully, and in the meantime, they enjoy their own company.

Negative characteristics of color yellow

Despite its associations with optimism and happiness, yellow carries a number of negative connotations. It stands for cowardice, deceitfulness, impulsiveness, egoism. High levels of exposure to yellow can also lead to aggression and irritability.

Yellow personality types can often be too judgmental, spiteful, and have a lack of empathy. It is even found that babies cry more in yellow painted rooms, as well as that people tend to get angry when around this color for too long.

Yellow personality types have been associated with choleric temperament in a way that they are often described as violent, vengeful, and short-tempered.

Color yellow in business

Yellow color stimulates mental activity. For example, it is found that people have a better chance of remembering something that is written on a yellow background, as opposed to a white one. However, yellow is also the shade that is most stressful on the eye, given the high amount of light that is reflected off of it.

In a business context, yellow can be too distracting and can cause the inability to focus. Brighter shades of yellow can also lead to irritation and frustration. Using just the right amount of yellow can create a positive and warm atmosphere and it can help a business become associated with optimism and positive outcomes.

Color yellow in branding and marketing

Yellow is considered a warm color, which means that it can make people more emotional than some cool shades. At the same time, it is an attention grabbing color. In fact, yellow is the most noticeable color of all.

Its visibility, along with the ability to provoke cheerfulness, warmth, fun, makes it a good color for branding and marketing. It is especially recommended for use by companies that offer pleasurable and accessible products and services.

However, not using too much of yellow is important in order to make the target audience feel accepted, but not overwhelmed.

In a RGB color space (made from three colored lights for red, green, and blue), hex #FFFF00 is made of 100% red, 100% green and 0% blue. In a CMYK color space (also known as process color, or four color, and used in color printing), hex #FFFF00 is made of 0% cyan, 0% magenta, 100% yellow and 0% black. Yellow has a hue angle of 60 degrees, a saturation of 100% and a lightness of 50%.

Color conversion

The hexadecimal color #FFFF00 has RGB values of R: 100, G: 100, B: 0 and CMYK values of C: 0, M: 0, Y: 1, K:0.

RGB DECIMAL255, 255, 0rgb(255, 255, 0)
RGB PERCENTAGE100, 100, 0rgb(100%, 100%, 0%)
CMYK0, 0, 100, 0
HSL60°, 100, 50hsl(60°, 100%, 50%)
HSV (OR HSB)60°, 100, 100
WEB SAFEffff00#ffff00
CIE-LAB97.139, -21.554, 94.478
XYZ77.003, 92.783, 13.853
XYY0.419, 0.505, 92.783
CIE-LCH97.139, 96.905, 102.851
CIE-LUV97.139, 7.706, 106.787
HUNTER-LAB96.324, -21.054, 55.72
BINARY11111111, 11111111, 00000000


Color Psychology: Yellow

The Color Psychology of Yellow
Photo: Andrew Blight

As we’ve discovered in this series about color psychology, choosing colors is a powerful tool in setting the tone, matching the moods, complementing daily activities, and stylistically transforming your space.  And we’ve also discovered that colors have multiple effects that are often brought out when using other colors in tandem with them to subtly change their visual dynamics.

In this installment, let’s talk about yellow. When it comes to moods and psychologically positive vibes, there is none more cheery, upbeat, and optimistic than yellow.  Yellow has that element of innocence and purity that makes it a culturally attractive color in the spectrum.

Think goldilocks. Think “Have a Nice Day” buttons.

Yellow is also a great way to brighten up a room without amping up your electricity bill, too.

But, is that all there is to this sunny, energetic member of the rainbow? Is there a dark side …

Moods and effects of yellow

In addition to the bright, cheery quality that yellow can bring, it is similar to red in that it is an extroverted color. It calls attention to itself. It activates memory, and stimulates the mind in general. It inspires action. To bring out a sunnily assertive mood in a space, yellow is ready to go.

Yet, another aspect of yellow that makes it less a candidate for bringing vitality to a space than, say, a red or orange, is that yellow is the most distracting of colors that is processed by the human eye.

As such, too much yellow can be a source of pain, as much as it can be a source of cheer in another context. So, when thinking of incorporating yellow into a space, its time to do a little bit of thinking.

When it comes to the spectrum of cheery to naked hostility, you want to get it right.

Yellow sits the sun in the center of a green/brown/gold/orange spectrum of color.  Colors in the yellow family can range from pale, to bold, to earthy, and with all of the associated effects coming along for the ride.  Here are a few selected shades that make yellow an important color range to consider for interior design plans.

  • Amber
  • Saffron
  • Flax
  • Citrine
  • Lemon chiffon
  • Jasmine
  • Dark goldenrod

Yellow in the living room

Your living room is a place of welcome, a very common first destination when friends and family are ushered into your home. For that sense of openness, and for a hearty visual welcome, extroverted yellow can have tremendous positive impact. But, as has been stated, if you’re going to overdo a color, yellow is not the one to do it with.

You can still get that welcome with a piece of artwork central to your space that has yellow as a primary tone, for instance. Yellow cushions are another way to bring in the cheer, while keeping the blinding brightness in check.

Yellow and blue rooms are a common choice to get this kind of balance.

Stately, and conservative blue or sophisticated, artistic purple tends to rein in the excesses of yellow, without diminishing the friendliness that yellow represents at its best in your living room.

 With yellow, thinking about balance and contrast is even more important perhaps than it is for all other tones in the color spectrum.

Yellow in the kitchen

Because yellow activates the senses, stimulates the appetite, and lets the sunlight in, the use of yellow in kitchens is legendary.  This is one of the rooms in the house where brightness is valued the most. The associations it has with preparing and eating food is of course a no-brainer connection when it comes to yellow in the kitchen, too.

Much you did in the living room, think about how to contrast yellow with other colors while still getting all of the positive benefits the yellow spectrum allows.

Sometimes, yellow crockery, yellow countertop appliances, or yellow place settings against a blue kitchen table or kitchen countertop is just enough to accomplish this goal.

 Other times, a pale yellow kitchen wall accented with blue tile backsplashes or decorative crockery on the walls  is the right balance. especially when your kitchen gets enough natural light to bring out the best in this combination.

Yellow in the bathroom

The bathroom is a place of privacy, and welcome solitude. Since brighter shades of yellow can be brash and sometimes visually invasive, it’s not often conducive to striking that comfortable, private feeling.

If you’re not careful, you can create the effect that the person using your bathroom is in the spotlight! So, when decorating a bathroom with yellow, think about the earthier end of the yellow spectrum; the deep golds, the pale desert yellows, the golden browns.

Another way to utilize  a subtle yellow accent in a bathroom is with brighter shades of sunny yellow in shower curtains, face cloths, hand cloths, and towels. Consider small pieces of art, too: golden fields or rural wheat field themes that denote the spaciousness and solitude of nature. In this way, yellow can be a way to make your bathroom feel cozier, and more comfortable.

Yellow in the bedroom

Much in your bathroom, your bedroom is a private place, your own home within your home. Yellow can come in handy if you’re looking to make it a brighter space. But, most people a bedroom to be muted, and restful, rather than screaming for their attention.

Earthy shades of yellow, an ochre (which is on the border between yellow and orange) or flax, can bring warmth, feelings of security and rest to a place where you most often go when you need it.

Yellow flooring & furnishings options

Natural shades of yellow help you to avoid the garish and obtrusive, and in turn help you to establish the inviting warmth, and cheeriness you’re looking for.

Natural white oak flooring in a solid wood or engineered floor are popular touches to adding just that, and to brightening up spaces.

 The same goes for yellow birch and ash, which when used with furniture and cabinetry, can add subtlety and style in equal measure.

Natural bamboo floors, which is known for its sustainability and rich blonde tones is another choice to make, which is sort of a green approach to yellow, as it were. When it comes to tile, travertine tile flooring adds a touch of gold to gray to bathrooms, kitchens, and entranceways.

Why decorate with yellow?

Yellow adds warmth and cheer to any room of the house.  Yellow can add a feeling of brightness to rooms that perhaps need a bit of a boost where light is concerned.

It is a vital color that stimulates the senses, having a positive effect on appetite.

It is the color to use when you’re looking to display an assertive personality in a space, or one that needs a bit of pure, childhood wonder.

When tempered with complementary shades, yellow can add important balance to the atmosphere of your home, cheering up moody blue, making artistic purple more accessible, and generally letting the sun shine in.

Stay tuned for the next installment of our color psychology series: green


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The psychology of design: The color yellow in branding and marketing

The Color Psychology of Yellow

Before we begin, I’d you to do me a favor. Select your musical accompaniment from this earnestly-accumulated all-yellow playlist:

Yellow Submarine by The Beatles

Yellow Ledbetter by Pearl Jam

Colors by Donovan

Yellow by Coldplay

Yellow by Amine 

Big Yellow Taxi by Joni Mitchell

Yellow Lights Harry Hudson

Yellow Raincoat by Justin Bieber (don’t hate)

There, that’s better. 

Music, color, has the ability to profoundly affect our mood. 

Free Course: Elements of a Great Inbound Marketing Website

Right now, the song you selected is influencing your emotional state and your perception of my words. You can’t help it.

The power of color

Color has power, and you don’t need to be a synesthete to feel it. There’s a reason we say someone who’s sad is blue or that an optimist sees everything with rose-colored glasses. 

It would not be an overstatement to suggest that color affects us in every waking hour, in every interaction, in every moment our eyes gather light. 

IMPACT has written extensively and admirably about the use of color in design and branding. There (and elsewhere), my colleagues' thorough scholarship examines just how important color is in our lives. 

Without providing too much overlap, I will remind you all that colors are typically organized in several ways. 

One of the most useful, for design, is by warm (yellow, orange, red) and cool (blue, green, purple). Furthermore, certain colors complement each other ( purple and yellow) while other colors clash ( red and orange).

Everyone, including designers, artists, and decorators, can agree that the right shade is essential to a particular idea coming to life, be it on the canvas, on the screen, or anywhere else.

Although it is one of the three primary colors, yellow is one of the lesser-used in the traditional color wheel.

Still, it is a powerful, conspicuous choice for businesses, designers, and others hoping to attract attention — and it’s always been that way.

Yellow in the past

There is actually much debate over exactly how the ancient Greeks saw color.

Although their philosophy was rich with explorations of sight, light, and color, the correlating vocabulary is relatively limited. Historian Maria Michela Sessi, writing in Aeon, notes that yellow 

“seems strangely absent from the Greek lexicon. The simple word xanthos covers the most various shades of yellow, from the shining blond hair of the gods, to amber, to the reddish blaze of fire. Chloros, since it’s related to chloe (grass), suggests the colour green but can also itself convey a vivid yellow, honey.”

Although Homer’s epic poems The Iliad and The Odyssey used much figurative language, the Greek word “yellow” appears very rarely, used only to describe the hair of certain characters. In a world of Greek and Trojan heroes, Achilles’ yellow hair would have stood out (although the adjective is sometimes translated as “fair”).

The word “yellow” (coming from ancient Dutch and German roots) has been in the English language for more than a thousand years, but it appears only scantly in early literature.

Middle English poet Geoffrey Chaucer, Homer before him, uses the word almost only to refer to blonde hair (which makes sense, as “blonde” did not enter English until after his death in 1400).

Shakespeare uses the word almost never. The only time the word appears in his major tragedies is in an angry rant by Juliet. However, he does give the word occasionally to his ethereal characters.

For example, Fairy Queen Titania describes “Neptune’s yellow sands.”

Elsewhere, it is a color of death or disease. A comedic character says of an enemy, “I will possess him with yellowness.” In The Merry Wives of Windsor, a servant describes someone as having a “little yellow beard, a Cain-colored beard.”

Cain, the biblical figure responsible for the first murder, is a stock figure of detestation. Additionally, Judas Iscariot, the disciple who betrayed Jesus Christ, was frequently depicted in yellow.

Thus we see yellow as a color of both life and death. Of beauty and sinisterness. Of things exotic and quotidian. 

On one side, we think of yellow sunlight and flowers, of fields of grain and fruit, of warm candlelight and baked goods. 

Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, in one of his most gorgeous elemental odes, writes 

So, when you hold

the hemisphere

of a cut lemon

above your plate,

you spill

a universe of gold,


yellow goblet

of miracles

By contrast, light with a yellow cast can seem sickly, grotesque, and soiled. 

In literature, we may think of the unraveling psyche in Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” or these haunting lines from T.S. Eliot:

The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,

The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes…

Considering the time period, we naturally align Eliot’s conceit with the mustard gas being used with devastating effect on the fields of France in World War I, but yellow can also make us think of jaundice, suppuration, urine, and yellow fever.

Of course, the color also has an ugly history as a racial slur.

Additionally, we might remember cultural disdain for yellow journalism or the folksy, old-west-sounding insult that associates the color with cowardice.

Traditionally, European artists used what was called “Indian yellow” as a paint pigment, which was imported to the West from Asia.

According to the BBC, the color was produced by inhumane force-feeding of poisonous leaves to cows.

In turn, their urine was collected and refined into the widely-used color — but this practice was made illegal in 1908 because of its cruelty.

any color, yellow is rich with associative history, symbolism, and meaning.

Today, regardless of positive or negative association, yellow is certainly an attention grabber.

It is the color that warns us away from wasps and hornets, and alerts us to danger ahead on the road.

Our eyes dart quickly to yellow school buses, taxi cabs, and, in some places, fire engines. (Although we naturally think of fire engines as red, research shows that yellow trucks are more noticeable and less ly to be involved in accidents.)

Yellow in the present

In a 2018 post on Southern Living, writer Maggie Burch does her darndest to convince the world that mustard yellow will be the color of 2019, claiming “This condiment-inspired hue is the perfect compliment to any room.”

While I admire Ms. Burch’s sincere prophecy, I have to doubt her prescience. 

Here we are, heading down the back-stretch of 2019. I’m not sure the hardware stores are struggling to restock Benjamin Moore 321. Plus, she spelled “complement” incorrectly, and I give less credence whenever I see a spelling error that didn’t get caught by QA.

In my mind, yellow will always be the preferred color of garishly cheery kitchens and gender-neutral nurseries. I don’t see it going much further (though my more fashion-forward teammates assure me it’s been quite prominent in this year’s clothing trends).

In corporate branding, yellow is seen as fun, energetic, young, and attention-grabbing. Still, it’s relatively uncommon compared to its primary color brethren. 

If you were to start naming prominent logos featuring red as the main design element, you might quickly think of Coca-Cola, CNN, Adobe, or Target.  For blue, Ford Motors, , IBM, or GE might jump to mind.

But for yellow?

Can you name another without really thinking about it? 

The fact is, yellow holds just a slim share of the design market. 

Proceed with caution

According to IMPACT senior web developer Tim Ostheimer, yellow is scarce in web design. 

He says, «As a web developer who has worked on hundreds of websites, I can't think of more than just one or two that used yellow.» Tim theorizes that too much yellow can cause eye strain and may prove difficult for ADA compliance. 

Often, designers seem to opt for the softer, warmer tones of orange when making accents, CTA buttons, or colored text.

(This can vary by locale, though. In the southwest, for example, and on the west coast, we see a greater prominence of yellow. Also, South Florida’s art deco past yields some noteworthy yellow designs, whereas New England yields more austere colors.)

Speaking broadly, in graphic and web design, you should treat yellow the way you do a flashing yellow traffic light: Slow down, proceed with caution. 

There’s nothing subtle about yellow, even in small doses.  

The corporations featured in the image above all use yellow prominently in their logos and branding material. However, go to their websites and you will often see a different story.

Stanley, a revered maker of tools and construction equipment, structures its homepage this, beautifully balancing the yellow with rich, earthy tones:

Yellow is merely an accent.

Here’s Best Buy, deep into its back-to-school push, using blue as an offset:

Sprint, similarly, is even more reserved in its use of its signature color:

Even beloved lollipop maker Chupa Chups, with a website under production, chooses to minimize the effect of the yellow with a complementary shade of pink.

In each case, yellow is used as a subtle accent, a splash of bright focus, a quick reminder of brand identity. 

By contrast, DHL goes more all-in on the yellow, but I don’t think anyone would mistake the shipping firm as being a purveyor of good taste:

With the more liberal use of yellow, it is difficult to know what to focus on or to determine what we should be clicking first. The yellow pulls our attention in too many directions at once.

Snapchat, too, uses a straight yellow palette for its desktop site:

The social media company keeps the design simple and pleasing by using dark contrasts, but the bright yellow background creates an effect that may not always be cheery or lively, but overwhelming.

The effect of any design is a matter of opinion, but as these examples attest, yellow is ly best used sparingly.

Considering many companies that have yellow as a key element of their branding still use it only minimally, all businesses should probably take that as an indication.

Here, with eyewear manufacturer Moscot, we see yellow done well. 

First off, a richer, more amber yellow tone feels softer on the eyes. Second, there is enough yellow to establish brand identity and guide your eye to the “shop now” button,  but not so much as to overpower or overwhelm.

The warmth of the hero image, the coolness of the gray product boxes, and the black framing all balance the yellow color.

Yellow does pair particularly well with black, just ask the Steelers, the University of Iowa, and the opening credits of Star Wars.


A dark color serves to temper the energy and power of yellow, harnessing it for more effective use. 

After all, there is a reason yellow is the default color of turn signals, post-it notes, and road hazard signs: it commands attention. But too much can be overwhelming and disconcerting.

In design, use yellow cautiously and intentionally. A little goes a long way.

The anthropology of color

As the old idiom says, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. While it is never possible to create a design that pleases everyone, considering personal and cultural differences, certain best practices should be kept in mind. 

Yellow is the brightest of the warm colors and appears in the natural world only sparingly. A design heavy on blue or green might feel peaceful and calming because those colors are prevalent in our natural world. We’ve evolved to see great swaths of blue and green. Yellow is just too strong. 

With designs DHL’s or Snapchat’s, we’re overwhelmed by too many calls for attention. At Sprint, we’re tastefully reminded of the brand color as we’re invited to shop.

While Chris Martin walking down a British beach singing about everything being all yellow seems artsy and romantic, the effect of an all-yellow world (or a mostly-yellow website) would be too much to bear.


Color Psychology: The Color Yellow

The Color Psychology of Yellow

As one of the three primary colors, yellow is an incredibly vital hue to get to know. Today, we're talking all about the color's history, perceptions, trends, and more.

Head over to our @StoriesEdit IG feed to see our IGTV video all about the color yellow! Stay tuned for more blog posts covering other important colors you should know in the future.

Let's dive in!


The color yellow can be traced back to some of the oldest paintings in history; in fact, traces of this color have been found in prehistoric cave paintings.

In particular, the color yellow is a prominent color in the painting of a horse in the cave Lascaux, which is approximately 17,300 years old.

This color has deep religious ties since it's often the shade utilized to represent the sun, which is considered one of humanity's most significant and important symbols. In Ancient Greece and Rome, several of the gods were often depicted to have yellow or golden-colored hair.


Did you know that yellow is often referred to as the most visible color of the spectrum? The reason for this is that the human eye is said to process the color yellow first.

This has naturally made the color yellow the «go-to» color for all things that need to demand attention quickly, such as road signs, ambulances, taxis, hazard signs, and more. any other color, yellow can be perceived in a variety of ways depending on the shade and culture in which it's being seen in.

For example, in several western cultures, it's associated with words such as cheeriness, warmth, caution, and happiness, but in India, it's often used to represent knowledge.

All colors tend to evoke a feeling when perceived, and according to several reports, the color yellow can influence how hungry you are. Because of this, it's no surprise that this specific color tends to be popular among companies who are selling something to eat (think of McDonald's, Denny's, Sonic, Lays).

It's also a popular color choice for companies or brands who are trying to gain the attention of the masses (think of IKEA, Best Buy, Amazon, National Geographic). Other companies are drawn to the color yellow because it can capture and convey a sense of friendliness or familiarity that other colors can't.

Take a company Sprint, their logo is incredibly simple, but it instantly catches your attention with the strategically placed yellow graphic on the right-hand side of their company name, their logo instantly feels bright, inviting, and familiar. If you were to cover up the yellow portion of their logo, it immediately changes the overall mood of the design.

Another example of a logo that successfully utilizes this color is Supergoop. They thoughtfully use the color yellow within their packaging to continuously connect their products to the sun, which is a subtle but effective visual message to potential customers.

Glossier is another example of a company that has utilized the color yellow to echo the sun in their packaging for their widely popular sunscreen, Invisible Sheild. Companies Ritual and Starface are also brands that are effectively utilizing this hue within their branding and marketing materials.

How to Use Yellow

We've collected a few words that yellow tends to be connected with, as well as a few color combinations to use when incorporating this color into your branding or marketing materials. Words associated with Yellow:

  • Compassion
  • Sincerity
  • Happiness
  • Optimism
  • Gentleness

One thing is for sure, yellow is such a versatile color! We hope this breakdown of the color helps with your future marketing and content strategies.

If there's one lesson to take away, it would be to not be afraid of any colors on the spectrum! Depending on the shade of yellow you use, it could convey energy and excitement or gentleness and sincerity.

If you're currently building your brand, yellow could be the perfect color for you, so experiment with it and try something new! We'll be sharing the color psychology of other colors here on the blog, so be sure to keep checking back for more color-related posts, IGTV episodes, and more.


How Yellow affects your state of mind

The Color Psychology of Yellow

  • When people see yellow they think «sunshine», «warmth» and «happiness»
  • The rumor that yellow makes you agitated was started years ago by a man who hated the color, a color specialist says

(CNN)Ever heard that if you looked at the color yellow for too long, you might begin to feel anxious or irritated? Or that babies are more ly to cry in yellow rooms and a colleague sporting the color would be judged deeply? Or considered a coward?

The rumors are out there, and have been for some time.

If you Google search «How yellow affects your mood», amid positive reviews of the color, a plethora of websites will also appear that warn against yellow's agitating qualities.

«That's absolutely not true,» said Leatrice Eiseman, color specialist and executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, which helps companies decide which colors are best for their brands or products.

Eisman knew the originator of that rumor, she said, adding that «he is now long dead.»

His name was Carleton Wagner, and he ran a school for people interested in color, she said.

«Yellow was not his favorite color and he did all he could to disparage the use of it, but that was strictly from a personal standpoint, and it's taken on a life of its own,» Eiseman said.

In fact, yellow mostly has the opposite effect on people, she argued.

Making you happy

Through her research, Eiseman has conducted various color word association studies on thousands of people over the last 30 years. The first words that consistently come to mind when people see the color yellow are «sunshine», «warmth», «cheer», «happiness» and sometimes even «playfulness».

This stems from its association with a crucial player in our solar system — the sun.

«Give any child a box of crayons and they reach for the yellow crayon,» said Eiseman. «And invariably in the upper right hand corner or left hand corner will appear the ball of sun and often with the rays emanating out.»

The sun wakes us up, keeps us warm and feeds our crops. When it is the clouds, children are told to go play.

Although the sun is actually white, we perceive it as yellow or orange because these colors have higher wavelengths and are scattered less easily by Earth's atmosphere, leaving them behind intensely for us to see. Blue, on the other hand, has low wavelengths, which explains why it is strewn across the sky.

Proving the soul-warming qualities of yellow, Eiseman has painted the main area of her own house the color. She lives in Washington, where the days are often gray and dismal and the yellow makes her feel she has bathed in sunlight, she said.

The use of yellow to cheer people up can be traced back to London in 1917, according to «The Colour Treatment: A Convergence of Art and Medicine at the Red Cross Russell Lea Nerve Home», by Jim Berryman. It was World War I, and a «colorist» named Howard Kemp Prossor believed that the right color scheme in a hospital room could cure soldiers who were shell-shocked.

He designed a room at Ethel McCaul's Hospital in London, with sky blue ceilings, delicate green floors and lemon yellow walls.

Although it was acknowledged that the room felt cheerful, an army doctor concluded that this psychological treatment was not as reliable as other therapeutic methods, according to «The Colour Treatment: A Convergence of Art and Medicine at the Red Cross Russell Lea Nerve Home» by Jim Berryman.

There have been few conclusive studies on how the color yellow alone affects people biologically. But Eiseman said the general mood that accompanies the color is mostly a positive one.

In her research, she has seen people associate yellow with even deeper feelings than happiness. «Sometimes people who are very metaphysical will see enlightenment,» she said.

Can yellow treat depression?

Yellow's mood improving qualities could be assumed to help seasonal affective disorder — a specific type of depression that reoccurs each year during fall and winter, and is believed to be influenced by lack of sunlight.

Some people with seasonal affective disorder choose to wear yellow tinted glasses, which block out blue light rays. These blue light rays are what produce melatonin in the body, and lead to oversleeping; a symptom that can be prevalent in those who have the disorder.

Light therapy has been proven to help treat the disorder, through a portable fluorescent light box placed inside the patient's home, providing a balanced spectrum of light that gives a similar feeling to standing outside on a pleasant sunny day.

But does yellow have anything to do with it? Although it is her favorite color, psychologist Gila Lindsley of LaMora Psychological Associates doesn't think so.

«People get better through these [boxes], which is wonderful, but that's just because that part of the brain that controls it all is responsive to the particular light spectrum in sunlight,» Lindsley said. «There are particular cells in the eyes that'll respond to it and basically tell the biological clock what time it is. So it's by coincidence that yellow's cheery.»

Appearing different through evolution

There's also something different about yellow's physical appearance. When made darker or lighter, it behaves in a way that no other primary color does, and scientists have no idea why — but it may have played an important role in how our visual perception evolved.

Steven Buck, a professor in the neuroscience graduate program at the University of Washington, said yellow is the only color that changes its hue when it's made darker than its surroundings.

The yellow completely disappears, and it becomes brown. When brown is made lighter, it becomes yellow.

In contrast, people's perception of red, blue and green stays the same despite how bright or dark they are.

«It could be that its been important in our evolution to distinguish objects, surfaces, that have the sort of wavelength composition that yellow has when its bright, but are dark instead,» Buck suggested to CNN.

Another explanation may be that since brown is such a common color found in natural environments that may not have a lot of meaning, it could have been useful to us to perceive certain objects as a brighter hue yellow, he said. Yet, he doesn't know anything definitively.

«Really, I don't think anyone knows how to do experiments about why we evolved the way we did,» Buck said. «But something about the difference between bright surfaces that look yellow and the corresponding dark surfaces that look brown has been important in the evolution of the visual system.»

Can you see it?

See more in the Colorscope series here.

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