Universal Patterns in Color-Emotion Associations Are Further Shaped by Linguistic and Geographic Proximity

Domicele Jonauskaite, Ahmad Abu-Akel, Nele Dael, Daniel Oberfeld, Ahmed M. Abdel-Khalek, Abdulrahman S. Al-Rasheed, Jean Philippe Antonietti, Victoria Bogushevskaya, Amer Chamseddine, Eka Chkonia, Violeta Corona, Eduardo Fonseca-Pedrero, Yulia A. Griber, Gina Grimshaw, Aya Ahmed Hasan, Jelena Havelka, Marco Hirnstein, Bodil S.A. Karlsson, Eric Laurent, Marjaana LindemanLynn Marquardt, Philip Mefoh, Marietta Papadatou-Pastou, Alicia Pérez-Albéniz, Niloufar Pouyan, Maya Roinishvili, Lyudmyla Romanyuk, Alejandro Salgado Montejo, Yann Schrag, Aygun Sultanova, Mari Uusküla, Suvi Vainio, Grażyna Wąsowicz, Sunčica Zdravković, Meng Zhang, Christine Mohr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Many of us “see red,” “feel blue,” or “turn green with envy.” Are such color-emotion associations fundamental to our shared cognitive architecture, or are they cultural creations learned through our languages and traditions? To answer these questions, we tested emotional associations of colors in 4,598 participants from 30 nations speaking 22 native languages. Participants associated 20 emotion concepts with 12 color terms. Pattern-similarity analyses revealed universal color-emotion associations (average similarity coefficient r =.88). However, local differences were also apparent. A machine-learning algorithm revealed that nation predicted color-emotion associations above and beyond those observed universally. Similarity was greater when nations were linguistically or geographically close. This study highlights robust universal color-emotion associations, further modulated by linguistic and geographic factors. These results pose further theoretical and empirical questions about the affective properties of color and may inform practice in applied domains, such as well-being and design.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1245-1260
Number of pages16
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number10
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2020
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2020.


  • affect
  • color perception
  • cross-cultural
  • cultural relativity
  • open data
  • open materials
  • pattern analysis
  • universality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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