Colour Preference and Emotional Maturity | Research

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Previous scientific studies have shown that children and adolescents are driven by genes and hormones. However, beyond adolescence, an individual has to choose maturity. The purpose of this studywas to see whether colour preference indicates degrees of emotional maturity. The research was aimed to find that there exists a co-relation between colour preference and emotional maturity. For the purpose, through quota sampling method, 30 adults aged 20-21 years, were asked to fill in the Yashvir and Bhargava Emotional Maturity Scale and the Max Luscher Colour preference scale. The researcher then established an indicative link between the two scales by calculating mean and interpreting results. The results revealed that the hypothesis held true. Emotional maturity so far has been studied independently; however, this aspect of colour preference showing emotional maturity has not been explored. Keeping this in mind the researcher stresses upon the importance of such research today.

Key Words: Emotional Maturity, Colour Preference.

Colour Preference as an Indicator of Degrees of Emotional Maturity


Some things in life cause individuals to feel and these are called emotional reactions. If a part of one's brain is occupied by a kind or kinds of feelings, then it may be said that one has less capacity for thought. It will be obvious therefore if one takes emotional extremes, such as crying, where people can barely think clearly or at all. Emotions go on and off for all, sometimes people laugh, and sometimes they are completely serious (Mark Pettinelli, The Psychology of Emotions, Feelings and Thought).

Certain things in life can give rise to more emotions than other things. Color causes more emotion than black and white (Mark Pettinelli, The Psychology of Emotions, Feelings and Thought). Hence one can say that anything with more color in it will be more emotional to look at, whether it is the difference between a gold or silver refrigerator or, a gold or silver laptop. In both cases, the gold is going to be more emotional.

Emotional Maturity:

The concept 'mature' behavior of any level is that which reflects the normal emotional development. Delineation of libidinal development has been yielded the important formulation of the "General Level" and "object - interest (Freud, 1924)". Recent emphasis on the conflict between the regressive, dependents, versus the progressive, productive forces in the personality has directed interest toward the more detailed nature of maturity. Morgan (1934) stated the view that an adequate theory of emotional maturity must take account of the full scope of the individuality, powers and his ability to enjoy the use of his powers. Kaplan and Baron elaborating the characteristics of an emotionally mature person, say that he has the capacity to withstand delay in satisfaction of needs and has the ability to withstand a reasonable amount of frustration. He has belief in long term planning and is capable of laying down his expectations in terms of demands of situations. An emotionally mature child has the capacity to make effective judgment by himself/herself, members of his/her family, his/her peers in school, society and culture. However maturity means not merely the capacity for such attitude and functioning but also the ability to enjoy them fully.

Dr. Yashvir Singh and Dr. Bhargava while explaining the nature of maturity state that one of the most obvious ways of development, long emphasized by Sigmund Freud and Franz Alexander, is from the dependence of the child right from the foetal stage to the relative independence on the parent. Intimately bound with the organism's development from the dependency on the mother to relative independence from the parents is its increased capacity for responsibility and productivity and its decreased receptive needs. Children learn to control their hostilities, sexuality and other impulses and to develop the orientations of maturity largely through the incentive of being loved. Third characteristic of maturity is relative freedom from the well - known constellation of inferiority, egotism and competitiveness. Another aspect of maturity consists in the conditioning and the training necessary for socialization and domestication. Another important attribute of maturity is a firm sense of reality and having flexibility and adaptability.

In the present circumstances, youth as well as children are facing difficulties in life. These difficulties are giving rise to many psycho-somatic problems such as anxiety, tension, frustrations and emotional upsets in day-to-day life. Hence, the study of emotional life is now emerging as a descriptive science. Emotional maturity is not only the effective determine of personality pattern but it also helps to control the growth of adolescent's development. According to Walter D. Smitson 1974, emotional maturity is a process in which the personality is continuously striving for greater sense of emotional health, both intra - psychically and intra - personally. L. S. Hollingworth (1928) mentions some characteristics of emotionally mature person in the following points:

He is capable of responding in gradation or degree of emotional responses. He does not respond in all or none fashion, but keeps within bounds. He is also able to delay his responses as controlled with the impulsiveness of a young child. Handling of self pity, instead of showing unrestrained self pity, he tries to feel for him.

Many criteria have been suggested to evaluate the concept of maturity. A few of them (Bernard, 1954) are:

  • Inhibition of direct expression of negative emotions.
  • Cultivation of positive, up building emotions.
  • Development of higher tolerance for disagreeable circumstances.
  • Increasing satisfaction from socially approved responses.
  • Ability to make a choice and not brood on other choices.
  • Freedom from unreasonable fear.
  • Understanding and action in accordance with limitations.
  • Awareness of the ability and achievement of others.
  • Ability to make mistakes without having feelings of disgust later.
  • Ability to carry victory and prestige with grace.
  • Ability to delay the gratification of impulses.
  • The enjoyment of daily living.

The most outstanding mark of emotional maturity, according to Cole (1944) is ability to bear tension. Other marks are an indifference towards certain kinds of stimuli that affect the child or adolescent and he develops moodiness and sentimentality. Besides, emotionally mature persons, the capacity for fun and recreation persists. He enjoys both play and responsible activities and keeps them in proper balance.

According to Fred McKinney, "the characteristics of an emotionally maturity are appreciation of attitude and behavior of others, tendency to adopt the attitudes and habits of others and capacity to delay his own responses." According to author Seoul, if the emotional development of an individual is complete, his adaptability is high, his regressive tendencies are low and his vulnerability is minimal. Therefore, the emotionally mature is not one who necessarily has resolved all conditions that aroused anxiety and hostility but it is continuously in process of seeing himself in clear perspective continually involved in a struggle to gain healthy integration of feeling, thinking action.

A person is judged as immature if his performance in some area of behavior falls below the standard dealt by others of his/her age. Immaturity can be general or it can be limited to one or more areas of behavior, a person may adhere to patterns of behavior common among his colleagues or peers in most areas but fall below them in emotional control or in normal judgment and behavior. Most people who are immature are aware of their immaturity and feel embarrassed or ashamed thus developing feelings of inadequacy. Their self - attitude is further reinforced by the person's awareness of unfavorable social judgment made by peers and others.

He reacts like a child, he looks for sympathy, is conceited, quarrelsome, infantile, self - centered and a demanding person. Has preservative emotions, is emotionally excitable and feels very much upset to lose a game. (Gibb,1942, Brogden, 1944 and Cattell, 1945).

Through this research, the researcher wanted to find out whether an individual's color preference would show the individuals emotional maturity. However, it is first essential to fully understand what the significance colors have in people's daily life and what place color preference holds in determining emotions, first, then later, emotional maturity.

While colour has always surrounded mankind on every side and subjected him to its influence since time immemorial, it is only comparatively recently that we have been able to produce and use colour as freely as we do today (Max Luscher, 1969). In 1666, an English scientist, Sir Isaac Newton discovered that when pure white light passed through a prism, it separated into all of the visible colors and found that each colour was comprised of a single wavelength and could not be separated any further into other colours. Colour is an inseparable part of our lives and its presence is evident in everything that we perceive. It is widely recognized that colours have also a strong impact on our emotions and feelings. For example, the colour red has been associated with excitement; orange has been seen as distressing and upsetting; purple as dignified and stately, yellow as cheerful, and blue with comfort and security (Ballast, 2002; Wexner, 1982 as cited in Naz Kaya 2004). Moreover, some colours are associated with several different emotions and some emotions are associated with more than one colour (Linton, 1999, Saito, 1996). Red, symbolically known as a dominant and dynamic colour, has an exciting and stimulating hue effect. It has both positive and negative impressions such as active, strong, passionate, warm, and on the other hand aggressive, raging and intense. According to Davey, (1998, Mahnke, 1996, Saito, 1996) green has been found to have a retiring and relaxing effect. It too has both positive and negative impressions such as refreshment, quietness, naturalness, and conversely tiredness and guilt. Hence the relationship between colour and emotion is closely tied to colour preferences. In particular, colour preferences are associated with whether a colour elicits positive or negative feelings.

Also many languages contain expressions that use colour metaphorically (common examples in English include "green with envy," "feeling blue," "seeing red," "purple passion," "white lies," and "black rage.") this can make it difficult then to translate these ideas in to other languages in different cultures.

Colour Psychology as Therapy:

Several ancient cultures, including the Egyptians and Chinese, practiced chromotherapy, that is, using colours to heal. Chromotherapy is sometimes referred to as light therapy or colourology and is still used today as a holistic or alternative treatment.

The Physiology of Colour:

Scientific evaluations have linked the sensations of relaxation or pleasure, tension or irritation to the influences of colour. A number of studies over the years have looked at the relationship between colour and emotions. This has given a number of practical applications. Experiments in which individuals are required to contemplate psychologically pure - red for varying lengths of time have shown that this color has a decidedly stimulating affect on the nervous system - blood pressure increases, respiration rate and heartbeat both speed up. Red is, therefore 'exciting' in its effect on the nervous system, especially on the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system. Example, children who are taught in a predominantly red classroom will become irritable. The impact of strong reds could also be one reason why many fast food chains are coloured red, yellow or orange. Studies suggest this stimulates the customers making them hungry yet impatient at the same time (New Idea, 20/06/92 p. 43 Colour Your World). In this way colours can influence moods and reduce or enhance emotions.

Similar exposure to psychologically pure - blue on the other hand has the reverse effect - blood pressure falls, heartbeat and breathing slow down. Dark - blue is therefore 'calming' in its effect and operates chiefly through the parasympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system.

It is due to this close relation between emotion and colour (preference) perhaps that one can gain an insight as well, into an individual's emotional maturity, through an understanding of the individual's emotional state. In this research, using two tests - The Max Luscher Colour Test and the Emotional Maturity Scale by Dr. Yashvir Singh and Dr. Mahesh Bhargava, the researcher would attempt to show that an individual's color preference would show their level of emotional maturity. She will do so by establishing a link between certain aspects of the two tests. To begin with, the Max Luscher Colour Test is a test in which the subject is required to show his/her preference for the given eight colours, from his first preference to his/her least preferred colour that is, his/her eight preference. Two series are presented before a subject and he/she has to indicate his/her preferences in both. Through a combination of the first preferences and their placement in the sequence or the placement of the least preferred colours in the series, determine certain traits about the subject. It was however found by the researcher, that the subjects who placed the colors Neutral - Grey and Black in any of the first three preferences and dark - blue, blue - green and yellow in the last three preferences, showed traits that went against the traits of an emotionally mature person mentioned earlier. However, the researcher not being satisfied with one analysis and wanting to eliminate doubts, also administered the Emotional Maturity Scale on the subjects along with the Max Luscher Colour Test and found that those subjects who chose Neutral - Grey or Black (two of the 'Auxiliary Colours', others being Violet and Brown) for any of the first three preferences in a combination with the 'basic colours' (Dark - blue, blue - green, bright yellow, orange - red) in the last preferences, also scored high on the Emotional Maturity Scale compared to those who chose the Basic Colors first and then the Auxiliary Colours later, who scored comparatively low on the Emotional Maturity Scale. Hence, it proved to show that an individual's colour preference may act as an indicator of their emotional maturity level.

Through this research, the researcher wanted to find whether there is a co-relation between colour preference and emotional maturity of 20 -21 year old girls and boys.

The Luscher Test: In stating preference for one colour or another, choice is often dictated by circumstances. If the circumstances are the choice of an outfit to wear, a wallpaper for the living room, a paint for the kitchen cupboards, then the resultant choice is determined not only by psychological preference of physiological need ( though these will inevitably play a part), but by aesthetic considerations: will the outfit go with general coloring or figure? What does the wall - paper do to the curtains and furniture? And so forth. When, as in the Luscher Test, colours are presented for choice without involvement of one with the other, and then aesthetic judgment becomes subordinate to personal preference, with no need to try to harmonize them with the one another, nor to refer the colours to some other frame of reference. It is desirable, just the same, when the test is being given to a subject, to suggest that the colours should be selected just as colours, without mental associations as to their suitability for dress materials, furnishings, and so on. According to the test:

The 'Basic Colours' should be preferred:

The four basic colours, blue, green, red and yellow (1, 2, 3 and 4), representing as they do fundamental psychological ability - the ability for contentment and affection, the ability to assert oneself, the ability to act and succeed and the ability to look forward and aspire - are all of special importance. They should therefore all occur in the first four or five places of the test when selected by a mature, normally balanced individual who is free from conflicts and repressions.

The 'Auxiliary Colors':

The auxiliary colours, violet, brown, black and grey ( 5, 6, 7 and 0) are in a rather different category, Black and grey are, strictly speaking, not colours at all - black being the negation of colour and grey of the test being strictly neutral and colourless. These two are therefore 'achromatic' (not coloured).Violet, is a mixture of blue and red, while brown is a mixture of orange - red and black, giving a darkish, relatively lifeless colour (sometimes also called 'achromatic' though this is not strictly accurate). Preference for any of the three 'achromatic colours' black, grey or brown may be taken as indicating a negative attitude towards life.

Neither the brown nor the violet are psychological primaries and were selected for the test after a great deal of trial and error as colours representative of other characteristics which the individual would normally place in the functionally indifferent area of the test or even reject, but which are frequently found to be exaggerated and to surge towards the beginning of the row at the expense of the one or other of the basic colours. According to Dr. Luscher, an additional purpose served by the inclusion of the four auxiliary colours is to increase the overall utility of the test by adding colours found to have universal acceptability, thus expanding the range over which the basic colours themselves are spread. This allows a more clearly defined significance to be placed on the location of a colour in the row.

'Colour Blindness' Makes no Difference:

It is the factor - the instinctive response to colour in terms of contrast - which makes the Luscher Test a valid instrument even in cases of defective colour - vision or even actual colour blindness, since the acceptability of a particular colour is somatically (from Greek 'soma', body; somatic therefore means 'having to do with the body') related to the degree to which anabolism or catabolism is needed by the organism. If it is psychically or physically in need of emotional peace, physical regeneration and release from tension or stress, then the instinctive response will be to choose the darker colours. If the organism needs to dissipate energy by outgoing activity or in mental creativeness, then the instinctive response will be for the brighter colours.

An examination into the validity of the Luscher Test in the event of colour blindness was carried out by L. Steinke, using normal controls and individuals suffering from both partial and total red - green colour blindness. His findings showed that 'colour vision need not be considered in the Luscher Test at all'.

The Emotional Maturity Scale: The scale takes into account five broad factors:

(A) Emotional Instability: This is a broad factor representing syndrome of lack of capacity to dispose off problems, irritability, needs; constant help for one's day - to - day work, vulnerability, stubbornness and temper tantrums.

(B) Emotional Regression: It is a broad group of factors representing such syndromes as feeling of inferiority, restlessness, hostility, aggressiveness and self - centeredness.

(C) Social Maladjustment: A high score in this section shows that the person shows lack of social adaptability, shows hatred, is seclusive but boasting; lies and is a shirker.

(D) Personality Disintegration: It includes all those symptoms, which represent disintegration of personality, like reaction, phobia formation, rationalization, pessimism, immorality, etc. A high score in this area shows that the person suffers from inferiorities and hence reacts to environment through aggressiveness, destruction and has distorted sense of reality.

The reliability and validity of the scale was determined by: Test - retest Method: The scale was measured for its test - retest reliability by administering upon a group of collegiate students (N = 150) including male and female students aged 20 - 24 years. The time interval between the two testing was that of six months. The product moment r between the two testing was 75. (ii) Internal Consistency: The Internal consistency of the scale was checked by calculating the coefficient of correlations between total scores and scores on each of the five areas. Internal Consistency of EMS = 98.

The scale was validated against external criteria that is, the area of adjustment inventory for college students by Sinha and Singh. The inventory has area measuring emotional adjustment of college students. The number of items of this area is twenty - one. Product moment correlation obtained between total scores on all twenty - one items and total scores on Emotional Maturity Scale (EMS) was 64 (N = 46).

Similar work was done in a study examining colour-emotion associations among college students in Australia, Hemphill (1996) also found that bright colours elicited mainly positive emotional associations, while dark colours elicited negative emotional associations, confirming the results obtained by Boyatzis and Varghese (1994). However, it was found that the colour black elicited both negative and positive responses among Japanese subjects, and that black was often a preferred colour among young people.


Sample: The sample size for this research, being a co-relative research was 30, which was inclusive of boys and girls aged 20-21 years.

The research instruments used by the researcher were the Emotional Maturity Test by Dr. Yashvir Singh and Dr. Mahesh Bhargava and The Luscher Colour Test by Dr. Max Luscher.

Variables of the research: Independent variable: Colour preference of 20 - 21 year old boys and girls. Dependent variable: emotional maturity.

Design: The study is a co-relational qualitative analytical study. The sample size consisted of 30 adults, aged 20 - 21 years. The sample was taken through random, quota sampling.

Procedure: In order to obtain the data needed the researcher approached individuals in various colleges in the age group of 20 - 21. A good rapport was established with them. Then the purpose of the study was not disclosed to them. The subjects were given the 1st questionnaire; that is the Luscher Colour test and were asked to fill in the particulars asked for, in the questionnaire. The instructions were read out loud by the researcher while the subjects were asked to follow silently. Doubts, if any, were clarified and the subjects were asked to continue answering the questionnaire. On completion of the test, the questionnaire was collected for further analysis. The second test; that is the Emotional Maturity test was then given and the same procedure was followed as above.

The Luscher Colour test had two series. Both consisted of eight (8) colours and the subject's preference was to be written down on the blank provided below the colours given, indicating his/her preference, from his/her first preference to his/her last; that is eight (8th) preference. Each of the eight (8) colours had a fixed number:

Dark - Blue - 1

Blue - Green - 2 (The four basic colour -The 'psychological' primaries)

Orange - Red - 3

Bright - Yellow - 4

Violet - 5

Brown - 6 (The four Auxiliary Colours)

Black - 7

Neutral Grey - 0

Thus according to preference a sequence like:

1st series: 3 1 5 4 2 6 0 7

2nd series: 3 5 1 4 2 6 7 0

was formed. The combination of these numbers in four groups represented by symbols of '+' 'x' '=' and '-' respectively were formed and the scale and method of interpretation was looked up. The first group was given the '+' sign, the second the 'x' sign, the third the '=' sign and the fourth the ' - ' sign. If the neighbor numbers remained the same but with changed position the pair was circled and allotted a symbol. Taking the above example:

+3 x1 x5 =4 =2 =6 -0 -7

+3 x5 x1 =4 =2 =6 -7 -0

The interpretation was then looked up on the interpretation scale consisting of several combinations.

In the Emotional Maturity test all 48 questions had five 'alternatives': 'very much', 'much', 'undecided', 'probably' and 'never' which had the scores of 5,4,3,2 and 1 respectively. For every factor the scores allotted on this basis were added up and were written down individually. The scores thus obtained for each factor were also added up. This total score was to be the grand total. The scoring of the Emotional Maturity Scale follows the principle, the greater the scores, the greater the level of immaturity. The interpretation of scores is:

50 - 80: Emotionally Stable

81 - 88: Moderately Stable

89 - 106: Unstable

107 - 240: Extremely Unstable

Statistics Used: Mean, Median and Mode


Table 1: showing the mean, of scores on the Emotional Maturity scale




Table 1 shows the mean of scores on an emotional maturity test. The mean of scores is 106, showing that the group average score falls in the 'unstable' category.

The Luscher Colour Test is an interpretation test and hence cannot be represented in a tabular form. The results can only be analyzed from individual to individual and preferably in a detailed manner. The researcher did analyzed each individual colour preference test in depth, and found that the two tests showed similar results for an individual. However, writing down the analysis of each, in detail would be a cumbersome task. Thus the data was analyzed as a group and the most common responses and obvious signs of maturity or immaturity are shown. The result of co-relation holding true is shown with the help of a pie-chart:

The most significant observations are:

On the first level it was observed that each individual who scored a low score ( 50 - 80 and 80 - 88 ) on the emotional maturity test indicating a high to average emotional maturity, chose the brighter colours -- red and yellow for their first two preferences and chose grey, black or brown for their last three preference. This is in accordance to the statement mentioned in the introduction (The 'Basic Colours' Should be preferred: The four basic colours, blue, green, red and yellow (1, 2, 3 and 4), representing as they do fundamental psychological ability - the ability for contentment and affection, the ability to assert oneself, the ability to act and succeed and the ability to look forward and aspire - are all of special importance. They should therefore all occur in the first four or five places of the test when selected by a mature, normally balanced individual who is free from conflicts and repressions.) The interpretation for the combination of Red (3) and Yellow (4) and Blue (1) in the first two preferences, in both series, is:

+ 3 +4 : - Seeks success, stimulation and life full of experience. Will develop freely and shake of the shackles of self - doubt, to win and to live intensely. Likes contacts with others and is enthusiastic. Is receptive to anything new, modern or intriguing; has interests and will expand in his fields of activity; is optimistic about the future.

+1 +4 :- Is capable of an affectionate relationship, offering fulfillment and happiness. He is capable of powerful emotional enthusiasm. He is helpful, and willing to adapt himself if necessary to realize the bond of affection he desires. He needs the same consideration and understanding from others.

+1 +3 :- Is capable of having an affectionate, satisfying and harmonious relationships. Desires an intimate union, in which, there is love, self - sacrifice and mutual trust.

Those who scored an "extremely unstable" score on the Emotional Maturity Scale (107 - 240), chose the dark colours, that is, 'black' (7), 'grey'(0) and 'brown'(6) as their first preferences, in both series. What it showed:

+7 +0 :- Feels that the situation is hopeless. Strongly resists those things which he finds disagreeable. Will shield himself from everything which might irritate him and make him feel more depressed.

+7 +6 :- Sets himself idealistic but illusory goals. Has been bitterly disappointed and turns his back on life in weary self - disgust. Finds it hard to forget it all and recover in a comfortable, problem - free situation.

+0 +6 :- Always desires protection against anything which might exhaust or tire him. He seeks a life of security and physical ease, free from any problem or disturbance.

Those who scored between the 'Moderately Stable' (81 - 88) showed common preferences of Blue (1) and Green (2) and Violet (5) as their first preferences, in both series. What it showed:

+1 +5 :- Longs for tenderness and for a sensitivity of feeling into which he can blend. He is responsive to anything aesthetic and tasteful.

+2 +5 :- Wants to make a favourable impression and be regarded as a special personality. Is therefore constantly on the watch to see whether he is succeeding in this and how others are reacting to him; this makes him feel that he is in control. He uses tactics cleverly in order to obtain influence and special recognition. He is susceptible to the aesthetic or original.

+1 +2 :- Needs a peaceful environment . Wants release from stress and freedom from conflicts or disagreement. He takes pains to control the situation and its problems by proceeding cautiously. He has a sensitivity of feeling and a fine eye for detail.

Those who scored a score falling in the category - 'Unstable' (81 - 88 and 89 - 240) in both series, chose: two combinations: Grey (0), Red (3) and Yellow (4) Black (7). What this showed:

+0 +3 :- Has exaggerated demands on life which are concealed behind specious rationalization and cautious behavior. Wishes to impress others with his achievements, but camouflages this desire and is inclined to be covert.

+4 + 7: - Tries to escape from his problems, difficulties and tensions by abrupt, headstrong and ill-considered decisions or changes of direction.

The research hoped that through her research, she could highlight that peoples' emotional maturity could be determined by their colour preference and perhaps contribute to therapeutic use of colours, via this research.

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