Feeling Blue? Sadness Literally Turns Your World Gray

First Posted: Sep 03, 2015 10:13 PM EDT

Are you feeling down in the dumps? Or, as they say, a little "blue?"

New findings published in the journal Psychological Science show that emotions can ultimately influence the way we see color.

"Our results show that mood and emotion can affect how we see the world around us," first study author and psychology researcher Christopher Torstenson of the University of Rochester, said in a statement. "Our work advances the study of perception by showing that sadness specifically impairs basic visual processes that are involved in perceiving color."

In this recent study, researchers randomly assigned people to one of two groups. Those who were assigned to "sadness" watched a clip that involved a particularly heart-wrenching scene from "The Lion King," according to Time. Then, all the participants were asked to look at red, yellow, green and blue patches that had been desaturated of color and muted gray.

Findings revealed that sad people had a harder time differentiating between shades along the blue-yellow color axis.

"We were surprised by how specific the effect was, that color was only impaired along the blue-yellow axis," added Thorstenson. "We did not predict this specific finding, although it might give us a clue to the reason for the effect in neurotransmitter functioning."

However, this was not true of sad participants when distinguishing colors in the red-green spectrum, which researchers believe may be due to an evolutionary process that has humans see red as an anger response.

"This is new work and we need to take time to determine the robustness and generalizability of this phenomenon before making links to application," he concluded.

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