As a child I was not a particular fan of pink, but now in adulthood and as an artist, it’s difficult to ignore the effect that the color holds over it’s viewers. Researchers have investigated how color can affect us in a powerful way.
“In 1979, psychologist Alexander Schauss published research in which 153 healthy young men were shown two 2-by-3 foot pieces of cardboard, one a deep blue, the other a pink resembling the shade of Pepto Bismol. The men were asked to stare at one piece of cardboard, then they underwent simple muscle testing. The process was repeated with the other piece of cardboard. All but two of the men tested significantly weaker when they had stared at the pink cardboard (Schauss, 1979, 1985; Alter, 2012). In a second experiment, using a dynamometer, Schauss showed 38 men the same colors of cardboard. All of them tested significantly weaker after staring at the pink cardboard (Schauss, 1979, 1985).
This same color pink was later used in a U.S. Navy detention center in Seattle by Chief Warrant Officer Gene Baker and Captain Ron Miller, who saw angry prisoners become calm after only 15 minutes in a pink detention cell. This color, which became known as Baker-Miller pink, was used with similar effects in a youth detention center in San Bernardino, California, and with psychiatric patients in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and the Los Angeles Veterans Administration Medical Center. County jails began using pink cells to pacify aggressive prisoners, observing how violent felons and angry drunks became calm after being exposed to the color pink (Schauss, 1979, 1985; Alter, 2012). Since then, there have been several experiments with mixed results,” (Psychology Today, Dhrerer, 2018).
I’m wondering if the color itself initiates feelings of weakness and calm, or if in fact the color that triggers the viewer’s ideas of femininity and thus outdated ideas about females as weak. In this theory viewers take on more of the traits they deem feminine when looking at the color pink, which can be a complex and layered experience, depending on one’s own personal history with the color. Many including Procter & Gamble spokesman Jim Schwartz, insist that the bright, cherry color reduces fear.
How does the color pink affect you?
Although often dismissed in the history of the study of memory as detrimental and escapist, nostalgia is actually a powerful tool delivering positive chemicals to your brain. As a recent topic of inquiry for my latest painting collection, Merry Kitschmas!, I thought you might enjoy hearing about some of my research. Psychologists recommend beginning a weekly practice of nostalgia to ease a variety of psychological maladies. Presented here are reasons this, possibly untapped, mental exercise might be beneficial to your health.
Nostalgia combats loneliness and feelings of isolation
According to Dr. Dr. Krystine Batcho a professor of psychology at Le Moyne College in New York, “nostalgia can help a person cope with loneliness by enhancing the sense of social support that comes from knowing that each of us is someone’s daughter or son, mother or father, sister or brother. Nostalgic memories can help someone who is away from home or someone who is mourning the death of a family member by reminding us that the bonds we share with those we love survive physical separation.” (Batcho, 'Tis the Season for Nostalgia: Holiday Reminiscing Can Have Psychological Benefits, 2011)
Batcho goes on to say in another interview, “loneliness has been shown to be a trigger for heightened nostalgia. It is interesting because then the nostalgia helps someone feel connected again. It helps to decrease the negative feelings of being alone. When you are lonely, it is because you are separate from others in one way or another; and the holidays [in particular] are really notorious for making people feel alone, even when they are not physically alone” (Parry, Why We Feel Nostalgic During the Holidays, The American Psychological Association, 2011).
It can improve self-esteem
As Jeff Goldblum describes on his program The World of Jeff Goldblum (2020), “it can improve self-esteem and make us feel connected to the people for whom we deeply care.” Goldblum goes on to describe the feelings of gladness induced by nostalgia, using the memory of soft serve ice cream as an example.
Nostalgia is shown to be both a driver of empathy and social connectedness
“That is certainly what we find,” Dr Tim Wildschut, lead nostalgia researcher, says. “Nostalgia compensates for uncomfortable states, for example, people with feelings of meaninglessness or a discontinuity between past and present. What we find in these cases is that nostalgia spontaneously rushes in and counteracts those things. It elevates meaningfulness, connectedness and continuity in the past. It is like a vitamin and an antidote to those states. It serves to promote emotional equilibrium, homeostasis,” (Adams, Look Back in Joy: The Power of Nostalgia, The Guardian, 2014).
It makes you less selfish
“The ability and encouragement to access nostalgia also builds gratitude and connectedness towards others,” lead research on nostalgia Dr. Constantine Sedikides says. “It tends to make children less selfish,” (Adams, Look Back in Joy: The Power of Nostalgia, The Guardian, 2014).
Nostalgia can make you physically warmer
A speedy way to experience nostalgia is through music, a newfound favorite tool of researchers. In an experiment in the Netherlands, Ad J. J. M. Vingerhoets of Tilburg University and colleagues found that listening to songs made people feel not only nostalgic but also physically warmer. Students were put in a cold room and then allowed to listen to a beloved song from their past. The experiment showed that body temperatures were raised when subjects engaged with nostalgic memories. There is also some evidence that nostalgia helped victims of The Holocaust survive cold environments by recounting large family dinners of the past.
Make sure to utilize this powerful mental tool to receive the maximum benefits, particularly during the holidays. Researching the effects of nostalgia while developing my Merry Kitschmas! painting collection has been simply fascinating. I hope this information was a bit of a treat for you, as it was for me to discover. I find this research specifically relevant given the world-wide pandemic and social distancing environment. You or someone you know may find this helpful during this time when we cannot be in close physical proximity to others.
Dr. Sedikides, psychologist at Southampton studying nostalgia says, “you’ll benefit by nostalgizing two or maybe three times a week. Experience it as a prized possession. We have it, and nobody can take it away from us. It’s our diamond,” (Tierney, What Is Nostalgia Good For? Quite a Bit, Research Shows, 2013).
Setting up your holiday art collection, kitschy as it may be, is linked to improved happiness. Jackpot, right? When working on my Merry Kitschmas! collection, I specifically sought out to conceptually address themes of isolation and loneliness that have become prevalent for many Americans during the pandemic. After researching the best visual antidote for loneliness and depression, I came across topics dealing with nostalgia, particularly during the holidays. My new collection is in direct response to the mental health of my viewers, I mean who couldn’t use a little joy with a dash of humor and brassy feminism these days? Who cares if it’s September, bring on the cheerfulness overload!
“Decking the halls early is a spirit-booster because it tends to trigger pleasant childhood memories, and makes folks feel more social, experts and studies show. When you’re putting up decorations, you’re thinking of happier times, times with family and friends and family traditions you engaged in,” psychotherapist Amy Morin told ABC News.
“Thinking of those happy memories stirs up happy feelings,” she said. A dose of holiday nostalgia also encourages giving and do-gooding, which is a mood enhancer,” (Here is your scientific excuse to decorate your house even earlier for Christmas, ABC News, 2019). Bonus!