Naureen Aqueel

Posts Tagged ‘psychology

Published in Youth magazine.

Exercising control over how to decorate their own rooms is one of the much-valued freedoms many young people enjoy. Add to this freedom a bit of creativity, a few resources and voila! You have your personally-designed-to-suit-your-likes haven where you can find safety, warmth, solace and a sense of achievement! It’s YOUR room!

But, designing a funky yet elegant room requires a lot of thought, planning and effort, and a budget which can preferably be kept in limits if you use your creativity to make do with low cost items. The most important and definitely most prominent thing about any room is its colour—the colour of its walls, rugs, carpet, furniture, curtains and other decorations.

Colour adds your own personal touch to your room. You can choose from a variety of hues and shades, colour schemes, contrasts, combinations etc. Colour in addition to lending beauty and liveliness to our rooms and homes, is considered to be an important mood enhancer, and thus is considered a vital aspect when deciding the interior design of one’s house.

Colour can have a great influence on our physiological as well as psychological functioning. It can affect our moods, feelings and states of mind. It is therefore very important that we choose wisely when deciding the colour of our rooms, where we spend a great part of our lives.

Colour Psychology and Colour’s effect on the room

So, before you start painting your room black or a deep shade of red, it is important that you find out more about colour psychology and the effect different colours may have on your physiological as well as psychological functioning.

  • Red

Red tends to be associated with danger, passion, energy, warmth and optimism. It has been proven to increase heart beat, blood pressure and energy in people. Most researchers therefore don’t consider red to be a very good choice for bedrooms especially if its strong shade is used alone. Colours like red also make the room look darker at times. But using a combination of colours like orange, red and white in rugs, fabrics, curtains etc can make your room look very inviting and cheerful.

  • Blue

Blue is serene, tranquil and relaxing. A lighter shade of blue tends to soothe the nerves and have a calming effect. It is also said to promote intellectual thought. It is because of these effects that blue is often recommended for bedrooms, bathrooms and study rooms. However, it is very important that one choose the correct shade of blue. Light blue can be used with brighter shades of blue with a warm undertone by having light blue walls, a brighter shade for the bed and chair covers and perhaps a white surface curtain to have a cool and peaceful look. Dark blue however, can have the opposite effect by making the room appear dark and evoking feelings of depression etc.

  • Yellow

Often associated with sunshine and energy, yellow is a cheery colour for some. It is considered better for kitchens, dinning rooms, bathrooms and narrow and dark hallways or small spaces to which it adds an expansive and welcoming aura. However, yellow is generally not considered a good colour for rooms because of some of the negative influences it is reported to have on feelings and mood. Research has found that people more often loose temper in a yellow room and babies tend to cry more in rooms painted in this colour. A lighter or warmer shade of yellow can however be used as a contrast or combination with other colours like orange or green to add a cheery look to your room.

  • Green

Refreshing and pleasant, green also has a relaxing effect. Associated with nature, energy and stability, green is recommended for bedrooms and living rooms to promote comfort, relaxation and togetherness. Light greens with a combination of yellow, white, orange or red can help add freshness, serenity and cheerfulness together.

  • Orange

Associated with warmth, excitement and energy, orange can make your room appear cheery and inviting. However, too much orange can become an eyesore and also make the room look dark at times. When using orange in the room make sure you use a shade that you can live with for long since it is not just about a temporary boost of energy. Orange can be used with red and fabrics with a white surface and coloured designs to add a funky look to your room.

  • Purple

Purple is rich, sophisticated and feminine in most of its shades. Dark purple symbolizes royalty but can make the room appear darker and can be overpowering. Dark purple is therefore not preferred for bedrooms. However, lighter shades of purple like lavender and lilac, carry the restful qualities of blue and can be serene, tranquil and cheerful all at once. Lighter shades of purple can be used with darker shades in rugs, pots and lamps to add a sophisticated look to your room.

  • Pink

The favourite bedroom colour for many young girls, pink is relaxing and calming colour. Used in combination with lavender or lilac it can add a tranquil and cheerful look to you room, although many may oppose this combination for its Barbie doll associations. Research has shown that pink can reduce anger temporarily and calm one down. Used with other combinations, lighter shades of pink can also help make the room appear spacious and serene.

  • Brown

Associated with security and stability, brown is often preferred for living rooms. Although most young people consider it boring, brown can be used with different colours like orange, red or even green to add a cheery look to a room. Brown can at times be soothing and comfortable.

  • Black

Never to be used as a base colour, black can be used in combination with other colours to lend a modern and funky look to the room. Some say black is linked to submissiveness, while others say it is linked to authority, eccentricity and drama. Black can be used with a mix of white, and bright shades of orange, pink etc to lend a funky and modern look to the room. However, it must be kept in mind that dark colours make a room look smaller and darker.

  • Grey

Grey is said to enhance creativity, so if your room is your creativity hub, it may not be a bad idea to use grey. Grey furnishings or fabrics can also add a modern look to a room. Grey can be used with other lighter colours like lilac, green or blue to add an elegant and sophisticated look.

  • White

Associated with innocence and purity, white can also be serene and tranquil. But it can be very boring if not complemented with other colours. Curtains and fabrics of bed and chair covers with white surface can give the room an elegant and bright look. This can look very pretty when walls are of light shades of green, blue, pink or lilac but can also help tone down and provide balance when walls are of brighter shades like orange, red or yellow.

An edited version of this article was published in Dawn Magazine, June 15, 2008.

Just what determines how much one eats? Is it a growling stomach, a watering mouth or simply the portion size of a food item?

An interesting study by Andrew B Geier and colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania published in the journal “Psychology Science” (2006) sheds light on this everyday mystery. These researchers think it is “unit bias” which determines how much one eats and explains why people tend to take one whole portion of food, whether it is big or small, as an appropriate amount.

The researchers describe “unit bias” as “the sense that a single entity (within a reasonable range of sizes) is the appropriate amount to engage, consume or consider”. To test their hypothesis, Geier and colleagues carried out a series of experiments in which they left different food items in varying degrees of unit segmentation for people to take as many units without any monetary cost.

For example, in one experiment, the researchers left a bowl of M&Ms in the hallway of an upscale apartment building with a sign that read “Eat your fill: please use the spoon to serve yourself”. Over the period that the candy was left there, some days it was left with a table-spoon sized scoop, while other days it was left with a quarter-cup scoop which was four times as big. There was no limit on how many spoon fills one could take. Passersby had the choice to take as little or as much as they wanted, regardless of which spoon was provided, but the researchers found that on average more M&Ms were taken on the days the bigger scoop was provided.

In another experiment, the researchers used pretzels to test the “unit bias”. When a bowl of 60 whole pretzels was left for passersby to help themselves from, it was found that measured by weight, more pretzels were taken as compared to the time when a bowl of 120 half pretzels was left.

Similarly, when a bowl of 80 small Tootsie Rolls was left in an apartment building, people took and consumed lesser measured by weight, than when a bowl of 20 large Tootsie Rolls was left which were four times as large.

People often take the offered portion of food as a single appropriate unit to be consumed. A plateful of food, a single wrapped candy, or a single piece of pretzel, all constitute the normal consumption unit for people and they tend to feel satisfied with it. Geier calls this a “culturally enforced consumption norm which promotes both the tendency to complete eating a unit and the idea that a single unit is the proper amount to it”.

Dietitians and researchers interested in the psychology of obesity find this to be a beneficial insight. Providing food in larger proportions can lead to overeating and obesity while smaller proportions may just hold the secret to controlled eating.

So, if you are one of those weight conscious people, it is always a good idea to have your food in smaller proportions. As for prospective hosts who already have their minds storming with ideas—yes, serving smaller proportions might just ensure that you guests don’t empty the serving dishes too fast!

An edited version of this article was published in Dawn Magazine, February 17, 2008.

Colour is integral to our lives. We cannot imagine life without the beauty and liveliness that colour injects into our lives. Colour is central to our perceptual experiences of the world around us. But more than just lending beauty to our world, colour has an effect on our psychological functioning as well.

Psychologists have long focused on the effect different colours have on our psychological functioning, physiological reactions, moods and emotions. Explanations for this relationship range from those proffering the role of learned associations to those attributing it to biological predispositions.

An interesting piece of research on the subject by Andrew J. Elliot and his colleagues was published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology (2007). Through a series of complex experiments with varying conditions to ensure validity and reliability, this group of researchers examined the influence of the colour red on performance in achievement contexts. In the first four experiments, the researchers found that the brief perception of red prior to an important test (ranging from anagram tests to IQ tests) led to impaired performance, without the participants in the experiments being conscious of it. Exposure to the colours was achieved by placing coloured participant numbers or coloured folio paper. The same effect was not present after exposure to other colours.

The next two experiments established the link between red and avoidance motivation or the motivational tendency that arises out of a fear to avoid failure and negatively influences performance. This link was apparent in both behavioural measures apparent in task choice and in psycho-physiological measures observable in cortical activation etc.

The research demonstrates how even brief exposure to the colour red can subtly influence behaviour and psychological functioning and impair one’s performance in achievement contexts. The researchers are however unsure whether this influence of the colour red is culturally based (since teachers mark mistakes with red and red symbolizes danger in some contexts) or biologically based.

However, one thing is clear. It would be safer to avoid exposing yourself to red when undertaking some important task where achievement is valued.

Published in Dawn, Magazine, January 27, 2008.

How many times do we hear the words “I am bored” from those around us, and many a times, from ourselves? What is the most-cited reason for this rather peculiar emotion?

Most people blame boredom on lack of external stimulation, absence of interesting activities and the failure of the external world to engage one’s feelings, desires and mood. A dull environment, monotonous tasks and repetitive and uninteresting happenings are often cited as causes of boredom. But there is more to boredom than just external circumstances.

Interestingly enough, recent research provides evidence to show that far from the external environment and surroundings, boredom is more a result of our own failure to know ourselves.

The journal “Personality and Individual Differences” published a study carried out by John D. Eastwood and colleagues of York University (2007), demonstrating how boredom is the result of an inability to consciously access and understand one’s emotions. Participants in the study were made to complete questionnaires containing self-report scales of boredom, emotional awareness and their external orientation.

It was found that participants who reported experiencing more boredom, were also the ones who were more externally focused and had difficulty in identifying their emotions. Results indicated a correlation between boredom, emotional awareness and external orientation. The researchers concluded that the basic cause behind boredom is the inability of the individual to understand his/her own emotions.

Boredom is thus highly subjective and does not just arise because ‘there is nothing to do’ instead, it results from our inability to know ourselves and understand our desires. Hence, a greater awareness of oneself and one’s desires, is the key to battling boredom.

So the next time you feel bored, don’t blame your job, surroundings or environment. Take this opportunity to reflect deeply and try to understand yourself.


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