Color Psychology: Influencing Customer Behavior Through Colors

By Werner Absenger Chef de Cuisine, Cygnus 27 at Amway Grand Plaza | November 24, 2013

Color psychology is a relatively new field of scientific inquiry that aims to analyze the effects of color on human behavior. In this article, we will explore what color psychology is and how colors affect human behavior. Hint! Black might be a bad choice for wait staff, hosts and other hotel employees dealing with conflict resolution. People from various cultures have automatic (unconscious), negative emotions to the color black, such as evil, death, fear, anonymity, anger, sadness, remorse, mourning, unhappiness and mystery. Yes, there are positive emotions, as well. The article will weigh the pros and cons with personal anecdotes from my experience at The Amway Hotel Collection.

Briefly ponder the following. What is color? What is your definition of color? Is color something tangible? Is there an innate quality, "qualia," in color we can only glean from experience? Very good, now file your answer(s) away while we will strive to carve out a working definition of color as it concerns this article. Ready?

The World Around Us Is Devoid of Color

We are just getting to know each other, so please do not think me insane right off the bat and bear with me. The world around us does not exist in color. The color we perceive is not a property of the thing that we see in color. What we think of as color are simply waves of varying lengths that upon exciting the retinal cones of the human eye, allow our visual cortex to display the world around us in a palette of 10 million colors.

Galileo, in 1623, suggested that color is a secondary characteristic of matter that is perceiver dependent. Present day thinkers Kosslyn and Thompson write that perception and imagery are constructs explicit to the visual cortex.(1) While images are stored in long term-memory, images are reconstructed in the visual cortex from the introduction of a stimulus. This means that prior knowledge, social learning and associations affect mental imagery.(2) We cannot delve deeper into this subject matter, but suffice it to say that color, for the scope of this article, is "… a vivid, affect-loaded and memorable stimulus, influencing both human behavior and human physiology." (2)

Recall your answers from the above exercise. Did you reason along those lines? If so, very good. If not, no need to worry. Philosophers are still wrestling with the concept of "qualia" and experience. For further reading on this subject, I point to Frank Jackson, who posed a very intriguing thought experiment called "Mary's Room." (3) In this thought experiment, Mary is a neuroscientist who understands all there is to know about the science of color. However, never did she experience color. She was made to examine the world from a black and white room via a black and white television. The problem that remains to irk philosophers is the following: Once Mary steps out of her room and senses color for the first time, does she learn anything new?

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Eco-Friendly Practices: Corporate Social Responsibility

The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.