The researchers also discovered that nations that are linguistically similar or geographically close have highly similar color and emotions patterns, although this “rule” did not hold strongly in every case. Germany and Switzerland are geographic neighbors, and German is the primary language in both countries. Their color-emotion pairings were almost identical. In Finland and Estonia, however, the pairings were less similar, despite the fact that Finns and Estonians are close linguistic cousins and separated by a mere 50 miles of open sea.
Like many cross-cultural studies, the study by Jonauskaite and her team had some methodological limitations, especially in terms of representativeness. India, the world’s second-most populous country, was not included in the study. Nigeria was the lone country from Sub-Saharan Africa, and Colombia was the only country from South America. The number of participants per country ranged from a high of 490 to a low of 69. It’s unlikely that 69 individuals can adequately represent an entire country.
Nevertheless, Jonauskaite and her colleagues deserve credit for their ambitious endeavour. Whereas earlier researchers investigated just one or two countries, Jonauskaite collected opinions from more than 4,500 participants in 30 different countries. Her major finding—a global pattern of color-emotion pairings that is modified somewhat by language, geography, and culture—vividly illustrates a fundamental tenet of cultural psychology. Every psychological phenomenon has a universal component and a culturally variable component (White, 2020).
- Hupka, R. B., Zaleski, Z., Otto, J., Reidl, L., & Tarabrina, N. V. (1997). The colors of anger, envy, fear, and jealousy. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 28, 156-171.
- Jonauskaite, D., and 35 others. (2020). Universal patterns in color-emotion associations are further shaped by linguistic and geographic proximity. Psychological Science, 31, 1245-1260.
- White, L. T. (2020) Culture Conscious: Briefings on Culture, Cognition, and Behavior. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons.
Written by: Lawrence T. White, Ph.D
Originally appeared on: Psychology Today