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Keywords:

  • esthetics;
  • colour preference;
  • psychology

Abstract

A feature of the empirical literature in colour psychology is that little attention has been given to how people in real settings engage in colour selection. Surprisingly, with rare exceptions, we know almost nothing about this. Besides its theoretical significance within psychology, this question has practical implications for industries where colour choice is important. A study is reported into that most ubiquitous of activities, selecting a paint colour for the home. This used a retrospective method supported by qualitative data analysis (NVivo) in which participants described their process of colour selection. The results indicate a process that is far from uniform, but one that consists of two essential stages. The first involves arriving at what we refer to as an affective specification of the qualities sought. Once constructed, this leads to the second stage of matching colour attributes to that specification. Selecting a wall colour emerges as a surprisingly complex process, and one that corresponds more closely to a search than to a simple affective choice. A parallel is drawn with decision research, particularly the field of naturalistic decision-making. From participants' reports, colour selection also emerges as a process that women appear to understand better than men. © 2007 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Col Res Appl, 33, 55–60, 2008