How colors affect our sense of time

In a recent study, Sebastian L. Kübel, Henrike Fiedler and Marc Wittmann analyzed the relationship between altered states of consciousness and the sense of time. Their investigation revealed a correlation between colors and our perception of time.

According to the Arousal Theory of Color, yellow and red are perceived as activating colors. Indeed, studies have shown that colors like red and yellow are likely to cause aggressive behavior both in humans and animals. Shorter wavelength colors such as green and blue are inversely associated with relaxation. 

More interesting findings came to light when these investigators elicited illusions and induced an altered state of consciousness using a Ganzfield—meaning an “entire field”, a term coined from the Gestalt Theory—a visual and auditory field.

A state of consciousness creates an altered perception of time. Generally, exposure duration to the Ganzfield was underestimated when an altered experience was induced. This is what usually happens when individuals engage in either pleasant activities or a practice like deep meditation: time seems to fly. 

But, what are the color-specific effects?

A correlation between colors and sense of time is present. According to the investigators, while red was associated with more energy and a higher session duration, green was perceived as shorter and more relaxing. Moreover, green combined with a “brown” noise—like that of a waterfall—was shown to hold potential as an induction technique for relaxation.

As already indicated in previous articles, altered states of consciousness can positively influence psychiatric symptoms. Given that colors impact our minds, leveraging the  color spectrum in visual and auditory illusions seems to be an effective way to approach and possibly improve mental health conditions.

In Virtualtimes, we are analyzing and studying the sense and structure of time by generating a flow state with the use of VR gaming. The experience of time can be distorted due to certain psychopathological conditions. Funded by the European Union, this project aims to provide individuals with opportunities to re-experience and normalize a variant and distorted sense of time.

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