Meaning of black color in psychology


In this article, I will talk about the meaning of the color black in psychology, marketing, architecture, design, and fashion.

Table of contents

Colors are a communicative instrument of our mind, since they consist of wavelengths that are physiologically perceived spontaneously and are recorded in the limbic system, the part of our brain that controls the emotional behavior of the individual.

From here it is understandable the fact that the choice of a color or the rejection of it at a particular moment of the day or of life has an indicative and detecting psychological meaning, therefore it acts as a tool for personal knowledge. 

In this article, we will discover together the meaning of the color black in psychology.

Meaning of black color in psychology

1. What does the color black mean?

Black is a color with theoretically zero brightness, no color (hence called "achromatic color"). It is a primary color that cannot be created from nothing, more precisely it is given by the subtractive synthesis of all the colors of the visible spectrum.

From this point of view, it can be considered the opposite of white, also colorless, but given by the additive synthesis of all the colors of the visible spectrum (or three primary colors). In this sense, it is commonly said that white is given by the "combination of all colors", while black is given by the "absence of color".

Instinctively, one thinks of the negative aspects of black: childhood fears, the dark, death. These elements are already present in the Bible, where dye is linked to funerals, the dead, and sin

In the symbology it represents the earth and, therefore, mourning, because in the West the deceased are buried and turn to dust, but this is not the case, for example, in Asia. It is indisputable that black, due to its link with the confines of life, has a unique symbolic power among colors and the history of man, who, as living symbols, has used it in a thousand and more forms.

2. Meaning of the color black in the Lüscher Test

Swiss psychologist Max Lüscher presented his Clinical Trial of Colors at the first World Congress of Psychology, held in Lausanne in 1947. Lüscher's diagnosis is based on regulated functional psychology, and the colors of his test measure, in addition to perceptions of human sensory, especially those psychovegetative unconscious areas inaccessible to verbal colloquy.

The test is based on six simple colors, defined and with a particular meaning, either chosen, therefore positive, or excluded, thus having a negative value.

Next, the meaning of the choice of the color black for the Lüscher color test:

  • Objective physiological meaning: ecstasy.
  • Objective psychological meaning: coercion, will to annihilation, outright denial, opposition, protest.

Black is the darkest color at all present in the Test, and is understood precisely as the negation of the color itself. Therefore, this color represents denial, the unconditional "no", rejection, renunciation, and always expresses a serious existential, affective, adaptive or relational malaise.

The color adjacent to the preferred black becomes important:

  • Blue/Black: desire for calm and affection, for a calm environment and without conflicts; suggestibility and affective dependence; phobic fear of what is risky
  • Green/Black : self-centered, stubborn, narcissistic attitude, need for strong confirmations, security, control.
  • Red/Black: impulsiveness, low tolerance for frustration, action, show of force, restlessness, irritation, aggressive behavior.
  • Yellow/Black: Need for relief, feeling hopeless, waiting for sudden and catastrophic actions to put an end to problems; in adults and adolescents this pairing may indicate a danger of suicide.
  • Purple/Black: hypersensitivity, seduction, conversational tendencies, emotional lability, suggestion, magical-infantile thinking, psychological dependence, mental weakness.
  • Brown/Black: self-injurious attitudes, regression in the body, physical numbness as a defense against psychic anguish, autovism, absolute desire for abandonment and restorative relaxation, need to forget, existence of a trauma that you want to get rid of.
  • Grey/Black: opposition, non-cooperation, emotional distance, discontent, demotivation, disenchantment, resistance, defense of depressive anxiety.

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3. Meaning of the color black in marketing

Not only psychological tests are based on the premise of the psychophysical perception of colors, but also marketing studies, advertising and many other aspects that affect our daily lives.

Sometimes the choice of a color may seem random, but this is rarely the case: it may happen that someone buys a dress in the color that is not exactly their favorite because the correct color was finished or for other contingent reasons; but hardly a company will launch a product on the market without having studied its color.

Black evokes mystery, and can go well if in a contained measure and for technological products. For branding and packaging, black is classic and strong, and is regularly used in marketing management schemes or as a primary component, or to highlight text or graphic characters.

Black can also communicate power, luxury, sophistication, and authority, and can be used to market anything from cars and electronics to luxury hotels and financial services.

4. Meaning of black color in architecture and design

In examining the elements that contribute to a feeling of well-being or discomfort in the face of impact with an environment, the function of color cannot be omitted. Indeed, the perception of color plays a determining role in the relationship that the individual establishes with the environment.

In the Western world, chromatic differences are assigned as many other forms of symbolism, which appearing in a certain environment correspond to different psychological perceptions.

The color black is associated with death and suffering, mourning, the darkness of darkness, the terror of the unknown, magic and mystery, but also solemnity and trust.

In interiors, black is often used with other colors as it highlights them, making them appear brighter. The psychological perceptions linked to the colors used for interior walls are: abstraction, strangeness, greatly exaggerates the perception of depth of spaces, fullness, heaviness.

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5. Meaning of the color black in fashion

The psychology of fashion identifies in black an intense symbolic value of protection: the option of wearing black can sometimes reveal an unconscious defense against stress and particularly intense and impetuous emotions.

Black, the color of the unknown, of what is secret and hidden, seems to represent, in clothing, a defensive barrier and border between the inner world itself and the outer environment, protecting and hiding the most turbulent and intimate emotions, the own vulnerability and insecurity, lack of self-confidence.

If white reveals and exposes to light, black, on the contrary, hides, envelops and protects. If some choose black to hide or disguise parts of their body that are difficult to accept, such as roundness, others seem to use black to unknowingly hide internal parts of their personality or state of mind.

The color black also seems to be associated with a strong sense of belonging: in the field of clubbing and social events, in fact, black clothing is often adopted to indicate aggregation and equality, going beyond the mere stylistic and aesthetic to represent, as a kind of uniform symbolism, belonging to a group, a team, a precise social or political clan.

In color psychology, moreover, black represents the emblem of authority, power and control. Clothing predominantly in black can indicate the unconscious intention of gaining the respect and submission of others, but also the desire to convey sensuality, sophisticated charm, self-control and refinement: this meaning is recognizable in the black dress code icon of the little black dress and black tie at elite social events.

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Disclaimer: This article is purely informative, I have no authority to make a diagnosis or recommend treatment. I invite you to visit a psychologist to treat your particular case.