The Color Psychology of Purple

Color psychology suggests that colors can have a powerful impact on our moods and even behaviors. Each color supposedly has its own effect, but the feeling that each color produces can vary based on experience and culture. Purple is one color that can lead to differing feelings, emotions, and associations.

How does the color purple make you feel? People often describe this color as mysterious, spiritual, and imaginative. Purple tends to occur rarely in nature, so it is viewed as rare and intriguing. Purple is a combination of blue and red.

Color psychology of purple

Verywell / Cindy Chung

So what are some of the most common associations people have with the color purple? Like many other colors, the feelings that the color purple evokes are often due to cultural associations.

Purple As a Royal Color

Because purple is so strongly associated with royalty, people often perceive it as being a very regal color. These associations with royalty were originally due to the fact that the Phoenician purple dye that was used in ancient times was very rare and extremely expensive. These associations with extravagance and aristocracy persist to this day.

Purple is the symbol of royalty and wealth. In ancient times, creating dyes to color fabric often required a great deal of effort and expense, especially for certain colors. Because purple is less common in nature, the resources needed to create a dye in this color were much harder to come by and much more costly.

The color purple became associated with wealth and royalty because very often the rich were the only individuals who could afford such expensive items.

Around 1200 B.C.E., the city of Tyre along the coast of ancient Phoenicia began producing purple dye by crushing the shells of a small sea snail. The resulting color became known as Tyrian purple and was so well known it was mentioned in Homer's "Iliad" and Virgil's "Aeneid." Alexander the Great and the kings of Egypt also wore clothing colored with the famous Tyrian purple.

This connection with royalty was not just restricted to ancient times. Purple was the color of choice for the Purple Robe of Estate worn by Queen Elizabeth II on her way back to Buckingham Palace following her coronation in 1953.

Purple Represents Wisdom, Bravery, and Spirituality

Purple also represents wisdom and spirituality. Its rare and mysterious nature perhaps causes it to seem connected to the unknown, supernatural, and divine.

Different shades of purple have different spiritual meanings. For instance, light purples are associated with light-hearted, romantic energies while darker shades can represent sadness and frustration. In some parts of Europe, purple is associated with death and mourning.

In the U.S., the Purple Heart is one of the highest honors for bravery in military service. The award, originally called the Badge of Military Merit, was created in 1782 by George Washington to give to soldiers for commendable action. The color represents courage and bravery.

Purple Is Unique and Exotic

Since purple does not often occur in nature, it can sometimes appear exotic or artificial. For this reason, it tends to be quite a polarizing color. People tend to either really love purple or really hate it.

Visually, purple is one of the most difficult colors to discriminate. It also has the strongest electromagnetic wavelength, being just a few wavelengths up from x-rays and gamma rays. For this reason, it is often used in visual illusions such as the lilac chaser illusion.

In writing, the phrase "purple prose" is sometimes used to describe writing that is extremely imaginative or even prone to exaggeration, hyperbole, or outright lies.

A Word From Verywell

Responses to the color purple can vary considerably from one person to the next, but many feel that the color seems royal yet mysterious.

Notice how purple is used in the image that accompanies this article. Consider how the color purple makes you feel. Do you associate purple with certain qualities or situations? 

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