500 words on Faber Birren’s “Colour Psychology and Colour Therapy: A Factual Study of the Influence of Colour on Human Life.”
American writer, Faber Birren (1990-88), has devoted his life to colour and it’s effects on human life. After writing around 25 texts on the topic, it would be safe to say his work is considered highly amoung colour experts and psychologists around the world. Birren’s work has a strong focus on linking how humans perceive colours to how it makes them react. He writes, “Good smelling colours are pink, lilac, orchid, cool green, aqua blue.” In his text Colour Psychology and Colour Therapy, Birren explores the work of several physicians, scientists and doctors, mainly the German psychoanalyst and physician Felix Deutsch. “His findings throw important light not only on medical practice with references to colour but on the whole psychology of colour.” (Pg 46, “Colour and Human Response”).
Faber Birren states that if a person prefers warmer colours such as hues of red and oranges, they are likely to me more aware of their social environment. He labels these as “warm colour dominant subjects.” On the other hand, those preferring cooler colours such as blues and greens, are categorized generally as “cold colour dominant subjects” and are recognised as finding it challenging to adapt themselves to new environments and situations”(Pg138). By splitting people into separate categories, based on their colour preferences, Birren finds himself able to establish a greater understanding of their personalities and characteristics. One experiment Birren explores in his text, courtesy of Kurt Goldstein, involves a subject standing before a black wall with his eyes shut and arms outstretched to touch the wall in front. When the subject is influenced by a warm colour such as the colour red, his arms deviate away from each other, whereas when under the influence of a cooler colour such as green or blue, even though the reaction is a subtle one, the subject will move his arms closer together. I find this experiment, simple as it is, to be fascinating in highlighting the strong effects colours have on our minds and bodies.
As well as distinguishing the differences in peoples’ character through his use of colour psychology, Birren also touches on the effects colours can have on the mentally ill, in this text. This section was the most interesting and involved a series of complex experiments such as discovering which neurological disorders were linked to which colours. Courtesy of the work by Hans Huber, it was proven that patients suffering manic tendencies preferred the colour red, a symbol of blood and anger. Hysterical patients were more sensitive to green, “perhaps as an escape”, the colour linked to paranoid subjects was found to be brown and schizophrenics are sensitive to yellow.
Birren states that persons troubled with “nervous (neurotic) and mental(psychotic) disturbances are greatly affected by colour and are responsive to it”. Therefore colour becomes much more significant to them, and affects them in a completely different way than those without such neurological disturbances. Chapter 12 Neurotics and Psychotics is the most compelling in the text as it relates to my dissertation topic. After struggling to find texts specific to my research subject, this text and its contents came as a welcomed discovery and I will be referring to Birren’s work throughout my further research.