Colorful Personality Traits Shine Through Wardrobe
Aiken, SC (10/07/2019) — The online journal, Personality and Individual Differences, recently published the work of a University of South Carolina Aiken psychology professor.
Dr. Adam Pazda and a co-researcher from the University of Rochester discovered that "Extraversion increases perceived extraversion and openness for zero-acquaintance judgments," which is the title of the study, featured in one of Elsevier's online publications.
This line of research focuses on how color metaphors may influence how people make snap judgments of others.
"Personality traits are really abstract things that are hard to talk about. So, we can use metaphors to make this easier," said Pazda.
"For example, how do you describe someone who is extraverted? You can describe them with the same words that you would use to describe things that are literally very colorful."
He says certain colors worn by people will be considered when others are describing them. Research indicates that "bold," "intense," "vibrant," and "standing out" are descriptors of literal colorfulness, like royal blue and fire engine red, for example, whereas "dull," "quiet," and "muted" are descriptors of literal grayness.
"These words are the same ones we might use to describe extraverts and introverts, respectively," the Aiken professor said.
Pazda and his fellow researcher wanted to know what happens when people see literal colorfulness in close proximity, like on clothing worn by someone they've never met. The team asked, "Do the metaphors linking colors to personality traits activate, making people more likely to judge personality based on the colors?"
It turns out that they do, according to the data. The experiments in this research had people look at photographs of strangers, and they had to make snap judgments of that person's personality based on the colors of their clothing. As part of the study, Pazda and his research partner varied the color people were wearing, so it was either really colorful or muted.
"When comparing the personality ratings, people perceived those in colorful attire as more extraverted than people in the more subdued attire," he said.
Basically, the color metaphors - bold for fire engine red, for example - do, in fact, impact how people will describe others based on certain colors worn.
"We found that clothing color can influence judgments of other people in ways that aren't so obvious," Pazda said.
Originally from Houston, Pazda completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Houston and his doctorate program at the University of Rochester. He's been on the USC Aiken for the last four years and has worked closely with numerous undergraduate Pacer researchers to explore the psychology of color. His students have participated in myriad academic conferences, presenting their research to diverse audiences. To date, Pazda has published 20 peer-reviewed journal articles, all of which investigate some aspect of how color and psychology are related.