Is Depression Affecting Your Color Perception?

New research may link emotions to the way a person perceives colors.

Is Depression Affecting Your Color Perception?

By Depression Connect StaffA Published at December 18, 2017 Views 3,095 Comments 1 Likes 1

Research published in the the journal Psychological Science links emotions to the way a person perceives colors. It may mean that individuals who feel depressed do not experience the world in the same hues as as those who are happy.

The research

It has been known for years that emotions may influence a number of visual processes. But this research breaks new ground in exploring whether sadness in particular makes people see colors differently. Researchers at the University of Rochester in New York found that feeling low may actually disrupt our ability to correctly distinguish one color from another, making the world a little grayer, which matches the depressed mood.

In their first experiment, the scientists studied 129 students by showing them an emotional video and then having them do a task that involved using visual judgment. Some participants watched a funny film of a comedian telling jokes. Others saw a heart-wrenching clip. Afterward, they were shown a series of 48 faint red, yellow, green, or blue color patches. The students had to identify which color they were shown on each patch. They also self-reported which emotions they felt during the film, and how intense the feelings were.


As expected, those who saw the sad clip were sad, and those who watched the comedian were happy. But when it came to accurately identifying the muted colors, those who saw the sad film performed worse than individuals who watched the amusing one. The ability to identify colors in the blue-yellow range was impaired, with sad viewers achieving 85 percent accuracy while happy viewers scored 90 percent accuracy. Researchers were surprised that there was no similar difference in accuracy of identifying colors on the red-green axis.

Colors and you

If you are coping with depression, you may have noticed that the world seems a little less bright when you are feeling down. This new research provides insight into the possibility that a person's feelings can physically change the way they see their environment. More evidence is needed to confirm these findings, and many questions remain. But if you notice that your vision is not the same when you are having a depressive episode, see your doctor to discuss it.

For more on managing systems of depression:

5 Little-Known Symptoms of Depression
Eat Healthy for Better Depression Management
4 Tips for Managing Weight with Clinical Depression

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