We often say that we are feeling blue when we are sad. This is nothing new as people often use colors to describe moods and feelings. We associate happy feelings with bright colors like yellow and orange, and, when sad or depressed, we often think of blue or grey. There is a strange sort of irony in this description though, as a study published in Psychological Science details we actually lose the ability to distinguish blue as we become sad or depressed.
Two studies were used to determine whether our color associations with mood had any legitimate credence in how we actually perceived them. It turns out that our ability to perceive both blue and yellow is greatly diminished when we are sad. The other finding was that a happy or cheerful mood did not enhance our color perception though. It seems to be a strange finding at first, why would sadness decreased color perception, like blue, but other emotions not increase our awareness of them?
Christopher Thorstenson of the University of Rochester believes that the perception of blue could be linked to dopamine production. Dopamine is one of the body’s reward chemicals and drops off when we become sad or depressed. It turns out that the chemical is also important in signaling color reception in the retina of the eye. There is no reliable evidence as of yet that the drop in dopamine is the reason we fail to perceive blue when sad but it is something Thorstenson is currently researching.