What color dispels a black mood? Would you believe pink? And not just any shade. Not scarlet pink or hot pink or pastel pink -- but bubble-gum pink!
The color, according to many chromologists, or color experts, seems endowed with almost magical properties. In San Bernardino Country in California, the Probation Department tried placing violent juvenile offenders in eight-by-four foot cells painted bubble-gum pink. Within ten minutes they stopped yelling and banging and often fell asleep. Psychiatric patients are apparently soothed by the pink color, also. Today an estimated 1,500 hospitals and correctional institutions have at least one room painted passive pink.
Another unusual effect is that the color appears to deter some would-be graffiti artists. In an experiment at Texas Wesleyan College in Fort Worth, children were put in pens of different colors. They scribbled and scrawled on the walls of all except the one painted pink. Cities who at one time grappled with garish graffiti displays and were burdened by lack of money to remove them, took note and experimented with the pink color in public facilities.
Chromotherapy, or color therapy, was once the province of Victorian quacks who roamed the countryside claiming they could cure everything from constipation to meningitis through the use of color. Today chromotherapy has acquired some respectability as a developing science, though there are still those who are skeptical of what some researchers call such a simple solution to very complex problems.
Colors are known to affect blood pressure, pulse and respiration rates, brain activity the bodys biorhythms, and behavior. For example, when one hospital changed its walls from drab chocolate brown and gray green to pumpkin orange, strawberry pink, emerald green, and lavender, staff morale suddenly improved, elderly male patients started shaving, dressing, and getting out of bed and female patients began asking for lipstick and combs. In another example, researchers painted heavy boxes white and light boxes, black. Workmen moving the crates reported having more trouble lifting the light black cases than the heavy white ones.How colors exert their effect is still a mood point. Do they simply set a mood? Or do they have a direct physiological effect, perhaps by stimulating the eye, sending impulses to the pituitary, pineal, and hypothalamus glands, which release hormones that control basic body functions and emotional response? Color scientists say they have discovered some basic principle of colors other than those of the famed pink. Among them: Red excites. In red rooms, peoples blood pressure, respiration rate, heartbeat, and brain activity go up. Muscle activity increases as does the number of eye blinks. Restaurants use red to whet customers appetites and to speed up table turnover.
Yellow cheers and excites, though not as much as red. Years ago, when a local telephone company painted the interiors of their phone booths yellow, it found that people kept their conversations unusually short, freeing the booths for more callers. Blue soothes. In an experiment at the Elves Memorial Child Development Center in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, researchers repainted the walls of a schoolroom used by behaviorally challenged children, from orange and white to blue. They also replaced an orange carpet with a gray one and changed the fluorescent lights to full-spectrum. The blood pressure of the students dropped by nearly 17 percent and they became better behaved and more attentive. When the room was restored to its original condition the childrens blood pressure shot up and they became fidgety again. In London, Blackfriars Bridge, a favorite jumping-off point for suicides, was painted blue and the number of attempts declined.Want to feel in the pink? Try it.Robin Westen writes about health for national magazines.See what others have to say about this story or leave a comment of your own.