The world seems a little grayer to those who believe that they are “feeling blue.” However, the new study published in the journal Psychological Science suggests that it is not just a metaphor.
According to a recent research conducted by a team of researchers at the University of Rochester, the emotion that an individual goes through tend to impact the way he or she perceives or identifies different colors. During the study, the research team found that those surrounded by a sad feeling tend to identify colors less accurately than those who feel either emotionally neutral or amused.
"Our results show that mood and emotion can affect how we see the world around us," said the first author of the study and a psychology researcher, Christopher Thorstenson. "Our work advances the study of perception by showing that sadness specifically impairs basic visual processes that are involved in perceiving color."
Taking clues from a number of previous studies that suggest that emotion impacts the visual processes and sensitivity to visual contrast in an individual, Thorstenson and his fellow team members decided to see whether sadness impacts an individual's ability to perceive colors.
For the study, the team recruited a group of 127 undergraduate students. To the half of the students, the researchers showed an emotional clip, and to the other half, a standup comedy clip was shown. The participants were then asked to complete a visual task at the end of the clip, in which they were shown “48 consecutive, desaturated color patches and were asked to indicate whether each patch was red, yellow, green, or blue,” reported Medical Xpress.
The researchers found that participants, who had seen the emotional clip, were less accurate in identifying the colors than those who had seen the standup comedy act. However, the accuracy was only restricted to the colors in the blue-yellow axis. No difference in accuracy was observed for colors placed on the red-green axis. The results were the same even when the second group was shown a neutral screensaver instead of a standup comedy act.
"We were surprised by how specific the effect was, that color was only impaired along the blue-yellow axis," said Thorstenson. "We did not predict this specific finding, although it might give us a clue to the reason for the effect in neurotransmitter functioning."