People Are Less Likely to Overeat When They Use Plates of This Color

Have you been drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes, and thinking about Rush Limbaugh in order to curb your appetite? Stop trying so hard. Research says that people are less likely to overeat when using red plates as opposed to white or blue plates, per a study published in the journal Appetite. Researchers theorized that red's association with "danger and prohibition" triggered an unconscious desire to slow down or eat less.

This all pertains to the field of color psychology — it's an area of research concerned with the subtle ways colors can impact our lives. Recently, a disconcerting number of my friends have gotten into crystals, and I once considered color psychology along these same lines (aka "hippie science"). But an increasing body of academic research actually supports color psychology, and there have been a couple other recent findings in the field.

In 2012, researchers from the University of Essex reported that the color green could help boost exercise motivation. In a small study of college men, participants were asked to ride a stationary bike for five minutes. While doing so, the men were shown three installments of a video of a rural cycling course. Each installment was shown through a different color filter (green, gray, and red). When shown the green-filtered video, cyclers felt like they were exerting themselves less even though they were cycling at the same intensity throughout the exercise. Feelings of anger were higher after viewing the red-filtered video, and previous research has also shown that red may be bad for motivation.

Also, the color of pills, supplements, and other medicines can influence the way people perceive them. For instance, pink pills were seen as being sweeter than identical pills colored red. And a January 2013 study found pill color differences could affect whether a patient will stick with medication. Patients taking generic drugs that differed in color from what they were used to were 50 percent more likely to stop taking meds before they should. "We found that changes in pill color significantly increase the odds that patients will stop taking their drugs as prescribed," lead study author Aaron S. Kesselheim said.

Psychologists note that colors have different meanings in different places and societies, so these findings may not apply across cultural lines. Color associations are also dependent on personal experiences. "You see loads of articles online about what color you like and what that says about what kind of person you are," UK "vision scientist," Yazhu Ling told Discovery News. "There is not actually scientific support for that. But it shows that people are generally interested in the subtle differences between people and what has driven that. Color provides a tool to understand why we like some things more than others."