Meier, Brian P.; D'Agostino, Paul R.; Elliot, Andrew J.; Maier, Markus A.; Wilkowski, Benjamin M.
Color in context: psychological context moderates the influence of red on approach- and avoidance-motivated behavior.
In: PloS one
A basic premise of the recently proffered color-in-context model is that the influence of color on psychological functioning varies as a function of the psychological context in which color is perceived. Some research has examined the appetitive and aversive implications of viewing the color red in romance- and achievement-relevant contexts, respectively, but in all existing empirical work approach and avoidance behavior has been studied in separate tasks and separate experiments. Research is needed to directly test whether red influences the same behavior differently depending entirely on psychological context. The present experiment was designed to put this premise to direct test in romance- and achievement-relevant contexts within the same experimental paradigm involving walking behavior. Our results revealed that exposure to red (but not blue) indeed has differential implications for walking behavior as a function of the context in which the color is perceived. Red increased the speed with which participants walked to an ostensible interview about dating (a romance-relevant context), but decreased the speed with which they walked to an ostensible interview about intelligence (an achievement-relevant context). These results are the first direct evidence that the influence of red on psychological functioning in humans varies by psychological context. Our findings contribute to both the literature on color psychology and the broader, emerging literature on the influence of context on basic psychological processes.