Preferences - Favorite Color

Our preference for a specific color can be related to how we feel in any situation, how we want to feel, and even how we remember certain experiences (to name a few). This section, which is closely associated with the previous section color Associations, presents the survey participants preferences and how they vary between age groups and gender. This first section examines the question of favorite color for all participants regardless or gender or age. Figure 6.1 below presents this information in graphical form.

Figure 6.1 - Favorite Color

Blue, for this group of people, is the most favored choice of the 8 colors available. Blue is an interesting color in that people tend to choose it as a favorite, but it is usually associated with sadness and depression. Birren notes that blue is commonly associated with adjectives like cold, subduing, sober, gloom and fearfulness (Color Psychology and Color Therapy, 143). Although some studies have suggested that blue can represent feelings that are sad or not happy, people tend to like the hue of blue (and like colors) because they have a calming and relaxing affect.

Favorite Color by Gender

When this data is examined further and filters of gender and age are applied, some interesting results surface. The two pie charts below represent favorite colors of each gender.

Figure 6.2 - Female Favorite Color

Figure 6.3
- Male Favorite Color

A review of color studies by Eysenck in the early 1940’s notes that St. George (1938) maintained that blue for men stands our far more than for women. Related to different colors, Eysenck’s study also found that the most significant gender difference is yellow being preferred to orange by women and orange to yellow by men. Natalia Khouw states, “this finding was reinforced later by Birren in 1952 who found men preferred orange to yellow; while women placed orange at the bottom” (The Meaning of Color for Gender, 1). Both these published results correlate to the survey results collected in this study.

Favorite Color by Age Group

color preferences differ by the age of the participant. Birren states in his book that blue and red maintain a high preference throughout life, but colors seem to drop down the list while other colors become more preferred. Yellow, for example, is well liked by children, but begins to drop away by people as they become adults. Birren states, “With maturity comes a greater liking for hues of shorter wave length (blue, green, purple) than for hues of longer wave length (red, orange, and yellow)” (Color Psychology and Color Therapy, 176). Below is a graphical representation of the survey results for a favorite color by age group.

Figure 6.4 - Favorite Color by Age Group

As you can see, blue, green, and purple make up the majority of responses. What’s interesting is the preference of green in the younger age groups and the preference of purple in the older age groups. One could say, by looking at this graph alone, that as people become older their preference for purple increases, while their preference for green decreases. Previous academic or research publications regarding this specific anomaly were not found during this project so the ability to compare and contrast these results with other results isn’t possible at this time. M. M. Terwogy and J. B. Hoeksma did a research study on colors and emotions with regards to preferences and combinations and they noted that as people get older, their preferences are likely to change as a result of social and cultural influences. They state, “As children grow up they learn that the expression of anger is often punished. They also learn that the color black (within Western culture) is associated with mourning.” (Color and Emotions, 7) They also state that the effects of color preferences are still present at later stages of life, but these preferences are outweighed by other (as yet unidentified) factors (Color and Emotions, 16).

Least Favorite Color

The least favorite color graph (shown below) was mentioned on the “color Associations” page along with what people tend to associate cheap and inexpensive. Below is a graphical representation of the survey results for least favorite color for all ages and both sexes.

Figure 6.5 - Least Favorite Color

As you can see orange, brown, and yellow comprise the majority of responses. As you’ve already read, yellow (according to Birren) tends to drop from preferred to disliked as a person grows older. Also, Birren stated in 1951 that women tend to put orange at the bottom of their preference list. Brown, being a darker hue of orange may share some similarities with orange. An interesting detail about orange is the love / hate relationship people have with it as a color. According to the survey results, orange took 28% of the votes when associated with “Fun.” Also, according to Birren the adjectives that his participants gave to orange are: bright, luminous, glowing, warm, metallic, autumnal, jovial, lively, energetic, hilarity and exuberance. All of these adjectives, to me, seem positive. One hypothesis could be that the dislike of the color orange is of stylistic consequence. That is, orange may be going through a period of being out of style, at least in comparison to blue or green.

Least Favorite Color by Gender

The two pie charts below represent favorite colors of each gender.

Figure 6.6 - Female - Least Favorite Color

Figure 6.7 - Male - Least Favorite Color

The aforementioned issues with orange, brown and yellow are supported by the pie charts for both Females and Males. The male participants gave 22% of their vote to purple which I found interesting because 20.4% of males stated that purple represented courage and bravery. This shows some inconsistency between the members of the Male participants. Women, on the other hand, only gave 8% of their vote to purple as their least favorite color. And 34.3% of women associated purple with courage or bravery. This gender difference is interesting and I believe it's caused by cultural changes in color association. Birren wrote his book in 1951 and then revised it in 1962; he notes that the participants in his study associated dignity as one of the adjectives in defining purple. This may be related to the “Purple Heart Medal” which is given by the US Military to any member who is wounded or killed in the line of duty.

Figure 6.8 - Purple Heart Medal

Least Favorite Color by Age Group

In the “Favorite color by Age Group” section above, I wrote about Birren’s comments about age and color. Subsequent to the bar chart below, I examine this studies results with Birren’s notes regarding age and color.

Figure 6.9 - Least Favorite Color by Age Group

Birren seems to be correct about the color orange and its lack of popularity among older people. The bar chart shows orange increasing as part of the whole throughout the age groups of the participants. This survey’s results regarding the color yellow also correlate well with Birren’s data. As you can see, yellow slowly becomes less popular as age increases. (Note – the age group of 70+ participants only consists of 5 people. That might be why the graph seems to lose consistency near the upper age groups.)