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What does gray color mean in psychology?


When we hear of someone who is “a gray person” or who has had “a gray day”, it is usually referring to the existence of qualities such as sadness or monotony and the lack of illusion. On the other hand, it also expresses a certain continuity and trajectory.

The truth is that gray is a very particular color, which has traditionally been given a very neutral symbolism despite having a tendency to receive bad consideration. Said symbolism and its association to certain elements and vital moments have caused that the gray color has certain effect and meaning at the psychic level. What does gray color mean in psychology? Let’s see it throughout this article.


What is this color?

Before entering to evaluate the symbolic and psychological meaning that is usually provided to the gray color, it is appropriate to make a brief comment on what is the gray in question. First of all, it should be noted that, just as happens with other colors, gray is only the product of our refraction’s perception of the refraction or lack of certain wavelengths of light.

As in the case of black or white, we are faced with an achromatic color which is not perceived by the pigments present in our cones but is captured by our canes, which, more than the color, are dedicated to capturing the luminosity or amount of light present in the medium.

The gray is perceived due to an intermediate point between the capture of light and its absence, or the blocking of the first by some object. Technically and chromatically, the gray would be the midpoint or the mixture between white and black, although depending on the proportions can be lighter or darker.

Due to its situation as a neutral point between the two extremes, it also has the peculiarity that it is its own complementary (although it has an interesting contrast on colors such as yellow).

But … what exactly does the color gray mean?


Symbolism and psychological meaning of gray

Although it is not one of the most appreciated colors, gray has and has throughout history an interesting symbolism for human beings, largely due to its identification with elements of the same color.

It is a color whose meaning is neutral in principle but which easily happens to be seen as negative, and to which we psychologically associate certain connotations (as Eva Heller points out in her psychology of color). It is mainly associated with the color of gray hair (and therefore aging and age), ash and dust, as well as stone (which is not on earth). Also and although it is not exactly the same color, it is also linked to silver.

Most of the symbology associated with gray and the psychological effects that parts of its relationship with these elements usually generate in us, as well as the fact that it is a neutral point between black and white (an intermediate point that does not only refer to chromatic but also to the symbolic of each of them), which in turn have both positive and negative connotations. And it is that if something is characterized especially gray color is to be the color neutrality, a neutrality that can also have positive and aversive connotations.

From a negative perspective, by associating with old age and age as well as gray ash, gray is usually linked to the idea of progressive loss, of the nearness of the end. In this sense it can be associated with the inescapable and cruelty, as well as the passage of time.

It is the color most associated with the stone, from which life is not born (as in the case of the earth) but rather remains stable and immutable, in addition to transmitting a certain coldness and lack of heat. Although, as we have said, it is the color of neutrality, it can also be seen from a psychological perspective as indecision and weakness, as an inability to position oneself and even as repression (whether of one’s own or of others’) and fear.

The absence of chromatism also means that it is linked to boredom (which can be easier), monotony and routine, apathy and conformism and lack of ambition, strength and ability to fight. A lack of character and spontaneity, and emptiness. Another of its meanings at the psychic level is that of concealment, given that it allows for easy camouflage and deterioration.

In addition to the above, it should also be noted that the fact that it is linked to a decrease in the level of luminosity also means that it is related to phenomena considered sad, such as rain, something that participates in the birth of expressions such as “gray day”. It is associated with the idea of a certain loss or reduction of something that was already there, a subtraction or diminution also negatively valued and that at a mental level is usually linked to sadness and melancholy as well as to avoidance (and in fact facilitates these mental states) ).

However, on the other hand, the gray also has a much more positive affection and symbology: on the one hand, its relationship with age speaks to us of experience and wisdom, of knowing how to be and sobriety (something that in turn generates a certain sense of tranquility and some protection). It is related to elegance and the ability to reflect.

Its neutrality, from a positive perspective, is also linked to the ability to value different points of view and to remain impartial. That said, another of its meanings is the idea of permanence, seriousness and tradition, and its resemblance to silver gives a sense of value. It is also a color related to science and objectivity.

It is also linked to modesty and intelligence, as well as self-control, respect and tranquility, favoring communication and the search for equity in it. Generally this kind of meaning tends to occur more when the gray has a more whitish and bright hue.

The use of gray color in day to day

The symbolism of gray is not merely ideological, but also has an application in a great diversity of sectors.

At the marketing level, it is usually used to represent stability, success and experience, something linked to the desire to project reliability and security. We must also bear in mind that it is linked to elegance and success, as well as the memory of past times. That is why it is usually used by those brands with greater antiquity or those that seek to represent classic values. For example, brands of cars or jewels of great projection. His connection with science also makes gray a frequent color in technology brands.

When worn on clothing it can be used as a concealment mechanism or to avoid excessive attention, or to appear sober. It can also be used to highlight concrete and striking elements of the costume (for example, generating contrast) or the image itself (such as the eyes).

In addition, when it is used in painting, it is often used to combine it with other colors to provide a mixture of expressivity and containment or to look for formal and disciplined environments. That is why it is common in the business world, although generally looking for contrasts.

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