Color and Placement in Designing Promotion Videos: What Has Cognitive Science to Say?

In designing a 2D character animation promotion video, I wanted to know:

  1. whether, to what extent, and how affective perception is affected by color;
  2. whether placing an object on the left side would provide a more positively valenced affective response than the right.

While not everyone in psychology uses the term “affect” in the same way, for many of us it refers to mood, emotion, motivation and attitudes. I.e., affect is a broad, super-ordinate category.

Regarding #1, a bit of web searching returns many claims that physical color can affectively colour one’s perception. But really, this calls for a search of the research literature.

So, I asked a colleague who specializes in color vision. He pointed me to some papers:

O’Connor, Z. (2011). Colour psychology and colour therapy: Caveat emptor. Color Research & Application, 36(3), 229–234. doi:10.1002/col.20597

Solli, M., & Lenz, R. (2011). Color emotions for multi-colored images. Color Research & Application, 36(3), 210–221. doi:10.1002/col.20604

The title “Caveat emptor” (“Buyer beware”) says it all:

it has been suggested that red has a greater capacity for arousal than blue; however, findings from a more recent study suggest that there is no statistically significant difference between these two colours in terms of physiological arousal and that it may be hue rather than saturation (intensity) of colour that has an impact. In addition, recent studies have found that responses to colour may vary depending on age, gender, culture, and preference.

In other words, don’t count on it.

As for the left and right issue, I didn’t delve into it more deeply. However, if there was a substantial effect, I assume it would be known by now.

So, I decided to ignore these two considerations and focus on other aspects of the video.

Published by

Luc P. Beaudoin

Head of CogZest. Author of Cognitive Productivity books. Co-founder of CogSci Apps Corp. Adjunct Professor of Education, Simon Fraser University. Why, Where, and What I Write. See About Me for more information.

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