Sadness Really Does Make The World Look Gray

Have you ever noticed that sadness makes the world seem just a little more gray and dull? Well, it turns out that there may be some scientific evidence to back up that feeling. A new study published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, seems to suggest that sadness actually does change color perception in some people.

“Our results show that mood and emotion can affect how we see the world around us,” says psychology researcher Christopher Thorstenson of the University of Rochester, first author on the research. “Our work advances the study of perception by showing that sadness specifically impairs basic visual processes that are involved in perceiving color.”

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The research presented in Psychological Science shows that participants in the study were less accurate in identifying colors when induced with sadness. And this isn’t the first study to suggest a correlation between emotions and visual perception.

SADNESS AND COLORS: THE FIRST STUDY

The first study used a focus group of 127 undergraduates. In it, the participants were randomly split into two groups: one would watch an emotional clip meant to induce sadness while the other half would watch a standup comedy clip. The researchers believed the group who had to watch the sad clip would be less accurate in identifying colors.

When both groups were finished with the clips, they were asked to identify whether 48 desaturated color patches were red, yellow, green, or blue. Just like the researchers thought, the group who watched the video on sadness were less accurate in identifying the correct colors.

THE SECOND STUDY

Another study had a similarly sized group of undergraduates. This experiment was almost identical the previous one, but was compared to a neutral clip rather than a comical clip. Again, the group that watched the sad video had difficulty in identifying color specifically on the blue-yellow spectrum when compared to the other group.

The fact that participants only had trouble identifying one color spectrum means that the results can’t be skewed based on a lack of effort.

So, next time you feel like a bit of sadness is making your world a little less colorful, you can at least be sure you’re not alone.


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