Kramer, R. S. S., & Prior, J. Y. (2019). Colour associations in children and adults. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology. Advance online publication.

A growing body of research has investigated how we associate colours and social traits. Specifically, studies have explored the links between red and perceptions of qualities like attractiveness and anger. Although less is known about other colours, the prevailing framework suggests that the specific context plays a significant role in determining how a particular colour might affect our perceptions of a person or item. Importantly, this factor has yet to be considered for children’s colour associations, where researchers focused on links between colours and emotions, rather than social traits. Here, we consider whether context-specific colour associations are demonstrated by 5- to 10-year-old children and compare these associations with adult data collected on the same task. We asked participants to rank order sets of six identical images (e.g., a boy completing a test), which varied only in the colour of a single item (his T-shirt). Each question was tailored to the image set to address a specific context, for example, “Which boy do you think looks the most likely to cheat on a test?” Our findings revealed several colour associations shared by children, and many of these were also present in adults, although some had strengthened or weakened by this stage of life. Taken together, our results demonstrate the presence of both stable and changing context-specific colour associations during development, revealing a new area of study for further exploration.

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