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Is purple the color of psychology?

Purple has long been associated with royalty, spirituality, and mystery. But in recent years, the vibrant hue has also become linked to the field of psychology. Brands like Caduceus, the medical symbol, or counseling centers often incorporate purple into their logos and marketing materials. What is it about this colorful tone that lends itself so well to the mind and mental health? Let’s explore some of the key connections between the color purple and the science of psychology.

The Color Psychology of Purple

To understand why purple fits with psychology, we first need to look at what purple represents psychologically. Each color carries symbolic meaning and association that impacts how we respond to it. According to color psychology:

  • Purple is associated with wisdom, dignity, independence, creativity, mystery, and magic.
  • It is an introspective color that evokes self-awareness, compassion, and spirituality.
  • Purple can promote imagination, inspiration, and romanticism.
  • Darker purples are linked to luxury, ambition, and power.
  • Lighter purples evoke femininity, nostalgia, affection, and charm.

With this rich blend of attributes, it’s easy to see why purple resonates with psychology and mental health. The introspective nature of purple relates to self-examination and understanding inner thoughts and feelings. Its spiritual dimension connects to finding meaning, imagination, and creativity. The combination of romance and affection remind us of human connections and emotional bonds.

Historical Use of Purple in Healing

The healing properties of purple have been recognized for centuries. In ancient times, purple was rare and expensive, made from a pigment called Tyrian purple obtained from crushed sea snails. As a result, purple clothing was worn primarily by royalty who could afford such luxury. People believed purple had mystical and spiritual qualities that could ward off evil and disease.

Ancient Greek physicians would treat patients in rooms painted or tiled in purple, believing it had calming and curative effects. Hospitals continued using purple well into the 19th century. Florence Nightingale, pioneer of modern nursing, wrote about the importance of decorating hospital rooms in shades of blue and purple to create a peaceful healing environment.

Purple in Modern Mental Health Care

While purple is no longer believed to hold actual mystical healing powers, the color continues to play an important role in mental healthcare settings today. Soft tones like lavender or lilac are popular choices for painting the walls in counseling offices, therapy rooms, psychiatric hospitals, and other facilities.

Studies show that exposure to purple can have measurable psychological and physiological effects, including:

  • Increasing mindfulness and introspection
  • Decreasing anxiety and nervousness
  • Promoting calmness and relaxation
  • Boosting creativity and imagination
  • Improving mood and reducing depression

Purple helps induce a contemplative state to get in touch with thoughts and emotions during counseling. It also creates a serene environment to facilitate mental healing.

Use of Purple in Therapy

In addition to environmental use, purple also appears in many therapeutic tools and techniques. For example:

  • Sandplay therapy uses purple-colored sand along with other bright tones to help express feelings through creative scenes.
  • Art therapy may incorporate purple paints, inks, or fabrics for patients to illustrate emotions nonverbally.
  • Chromotherapy uses different colored lights, including purple, to create targeted energetic vibrations that balance the body and mind.
  • Purple stress balls and fidget tools provide sensory relief and relaxation during therapy sessions.

Interacting with purple through art, play, and touch engages the mind on a deeper metaphorical level. The color is both stimulating and soothing to help patients get in touch with their inner world.

Purple in Therapy Branding

In branding, purple carries a strong connection to professional counseling and psychology services. The color features prominently in therapist logos, counseling center designs, and mental health organization marketing. Using purple conveys expertise in mental healthcare with a sense of wisdom, spirituality, and compassion. Some examples include:

  • The logo for the American Psychological Association (APA) contains a prominent purple circle.
  • The American Psychiatric Association features a purple and green logo.
  • Caduceus, the medical symbol, incorporates purple wings.
  • Counseling practice websites often use purple palette schemes.

Purple builds brand identity in the field and attracts patients seeking support for mental or emotional issues. It also signifies therapists’ understanding of both the science and humanity behind psychology.

Psychology Professionals Associated with Purple

Famous psychologists, psychiatrists, and counselors throughout history have worn the color purple, linking themselves visually to its symbolic meanings. For example:

  • Dr. Phil McGraw wears purple ties on his television shows about psychology and relationships.
  • Jean Piaget, famed developmental psychologist, was rarely seen without his purple turtleneck.
  • Sigmund Freud had couches in his psychoanalysis office upholstered in purple velvet.
  • Psychiatrist Carl Jung commissioned a special purple notebook to record his personal dreams and subconscious thoughts.

Wearing purple allows therapists to tap into its spiritual wisdom and compassionate traits so they can better connect with and understand patients. It is both an expression of expertise and an unspoken communication style.

Psychology Research on Purple

Modern research by psychologists and neuroscientists provides tangible evidence for humans’ brains and bodies responding to the color purple. Some findings include:

Study Finding on Purple
University of Sussex Purple environments increased alpha brainwave activity indicating relaxation
Manchester Metropolitan University Purple light helped reduce anxiety and increase dopamine production
University of Cincinnati Purple rooms lowered heart rates and blood pressure among ICU patients

This demonstrates empirically how purple can induce contemplative, creative, and serene psychological states that are beneficial in counseling, therapy, and healing settings.

Criticisms of Purple Psychology Link

While many psychologists embrace purple’s connection to the field, some argue it reinforces unrealistic stereotypes. Critics note:

  • The “purple shrink” trope oversimplifies complex mental health issues.
  • It perpetuates the mystical pseudoscience stigma around psychology.
  • Patients may develop fixed expectations that psychologists analyze dreams and read minds.
  • Not all therapists follow Freudian psychoanalysis or hypnotherapy approaches.

There are concerns the “purple psychology” concept narrowly defines a diverse, nuanced field. However, modern use of purple generally aims to convey expertise with human emotions, not stereotypical techniques.


While not scientifically proven, purple retains a strong symbolic affiliation with the practice of psychology. Its links to spirituality, compassion, creativity, mystery, and calm have made it a prime color choice for mental health settings and branding. Purple conveys the psychological professions’ blend of clinical science and humanistic understanding. Although some detractors exist, purple remains a widely embraced representative hue of the field.

Psychologists’ continued use of purple honors the color’s long historical association with mental and emotional health. Patients take comfort in the unspoken message that purple surroundings inspire self-reflection and openness. For these reasons, despite criticism, purple seems destined to remain the distinctive shade of psychology for the foreseeable future.