The universal and automatic association between brightness and positivity

Eva Specker, Helmut Leder, Raphael Rosenberg, Lisa Mira Hegelmaier, Hanna Brinkmann, Jan Mikuni, Hideaki Kawabata

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


The present study investigates the hypothesis that brightness of colors is associated with positivity, postulating that this is an automatic and universal effect. The Implicit Association Test (IAT; Greenwald, McGhee, & Schwartz, 1998) was used in all studies. Study 1 used color patches varying on brightness, Study 2 used achromatic stimuli to eliminate the potential confounding effects of hue and saturation. Study 3 replicated Study 2 in a different cultural context (Japan vs. Austria), both studies also included a measure of explicit association. All studies confirmed the hypothesis that brightness is associated with positivity, at a significance level of p <.001 and Cohen's D varying from 0.90 to 3.99. Study 1–3 provided support for the notion that this is an automatic effect. Additionally, Study 2 and Study 3 showed that people also have an explicit association of brightness with positivity. However, as expected, our results also show that the implicit association was stronger than the explicit association. Study 3 shows clear support for the universality of our effects. In sum, our results support the idea that brightness is associated with positivity and that these associations are automatic and universal.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-53
Number of pages7
JournalActa Psychologica
Publication statusPublished - 2018 May


  • Brightness
  • Color
  • Color association
  • Cross-cultural psychology
  • Positivity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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