Color pleasantness modulated by physiological arousal.


Previous research has associated arousal with individuals appraisals of their environments and impulses. These studies have shown an influence of arousal on emotional processing and higher-order cognitive processes. Some studies, for example, have investigated the role of arousal on motivation, attraction, and preference for different types of music and movies. The effect of arousal on more basic processes has been largely unexplored. This study investigates the role arousal plays in modulating one of these basic processes: preference of basic color properties (hue, saturation, and luminance). Twenty subjects were assigned to either an exercise condition or a control condition, and their arousal was measured using galvanic skin response and electrocardiography. Both groups were subsequently shown a series of standardized colors and were asked to rate their pleasantness. There were no significant differences found between the groups, yet trends were discovered that point in the hypothesized direction. There were significant differences within the arousal group. However, post hoc analyses were inconclusive as to the location of these differences. This provides preliminary evidence that arousal influences people’s perception of color pleasantness. The findings also support previous research that has been conducted on individual color preference. Future research should continue to examine the effect of physiological arousal on more rudimentary processes in order to gain a better understanding of the phenomenon.

Poster presented at the University of Kansas Symposium for Undergraduate Psychology Engagement and Research, Lawrence, KS.