Cracking the Colour Code

Last Updated Jun 11, 2009 2:02 AM EDT

A joke extracted from a talk by Charlie Munger, Warren Buffet's partner:

Then there was the guy who sold fishing tackle. I asked him, "My God, they're purple and green. Do fish really take these lures?" And he said, "Mister, I don't sell to fish."
The joke is good but the subtext is even more interesting.

As readers of this blog know I am a big fan of the Humm for understanding our core emotions. Chandler Macleod, one of Australia's leading organisational psychologists, bought the rights to the Humm in the early 1960s and have since tested over 1 million people. In addition, the company has conducted follow-up interviews with over 100,000 of those tested. Over time they noticed that each of the seven components was associated with a dominant colour. This was reflected in dress, discussions about the house or office, and in the colour of the car the person drove.

Movers preferred yellow, Hustlers red and gold, Politicians blue, Double-checkers brown, and Normals liked black, white, and grey. The two most introverted components, the Artist and the Engineer like purple and green respectively. And when you think about it, of all the sports fishing is perhaps the one that most appeals to the introvert; hence you would expect the most popular lure colours to be purple and green. The cover of The Humm Handbook shows the seven colours associated with the seven core emotions of the Humm.

Google 'colours and emotions' and you will get some 2 million hits. So this is a popular topic. Edward De Bono's book Six Thinking Hats is an interesting take on this idea where he suggest we put on different coloured hats when we are thinking about a problem. Assuming we associate each colour with a different emotion, this is a very interesting application of emotional intelligence. Indeed Six Thinking Hats workshops are regularly held in major cities all over the world.

There is only one problem. De Bono's choice of colours was intuitive and unfortunately in the case of three of the six hats wrong. I discuss these issues in the following article but on the other hand there is an emotional choice to colour which explains why McDonalds has yellow arches, realtors wear red ties, lawyers wear white shirts and grey suits, and large companies often have blue logos.

Does your favourite colour reflect your core emotions?