We are in the middle of nature, in a closed night and with storm clouds covering the light of the moon and stars. The darkness and blackness make it difficult to see, something broken only by the lightning. We do not know what is around us, if something or someone is lurking there or even if we are about to fall off a cliff.
In this context, something frequent throughout human history, blackness is obviously something to be feared and distressed about. And the truth is that the colour associated with the absence of light, black (despite the fact that in nature it is practically impossible to find total darkness), has dragged this concept throughout history and has acquired a certain symbolism that endures even today, and can cause different effects on our psyche. and our behaviour (something that has in fact been observed by psychology as well as by other sciences and even the arts). What does the meaning of black in psychology mean? Let’s see it throughout this article.
The absence of light
Before starting to assess what the color black implies, it is first necessary to evaluate what this color is. In general, colour perception is produced by the arrival in the eye of determined wavelengths of light that are produced when objects absorb part of the light and reflect the rest in such a way that it can reach our eyes. In other words, colours come from and are in fact the product of our eyes’ capture of light.
In the case of the black man, it’s not like that. Traditionally black has been considered as the total absence of color, as opposed to white which would imply the mixing of all colors. But in reality, more than the absence of colour (after all, we do not stop perceiving it, and moreover, at the level of the pigment in the background, the mixture of all the colours would give us black), we should speak of the absence of light . And this is because on a visual level, if we see a black colour it is because the object in question (or the dye that impregnates it) absorbs all the wavelengths of the light that reaches it, and therefore cannot be reflected on our retina.
In the same way, we see this colour in total darkness, and for the same reasons: black is the product of the absence of light reaching our eyes. In short, we could say that the perception of black is, in reality, not perception. But the truth is that it is complex that no light is reflected at all, something that allows us to detect different types of black.
What does the color black mean?
As with the rest of the colours, black has acquired over time a symbolic and psychological meaning (in turn influenced by symbolism) depending on those elements that have been associated with that colour. Specifically, the most evident link of black is with darkness and night, that is, the absence of light. And in this sense it has been given a series of links, mostly negative. In fact, we are probably facing the colour that has received the worst consideration, its union with others being the reason for its symbolism to turn towards the negative.
In this sense, we link the black with the unknown, the terrifying, the dark and even the evil. It is a colour associated with what we are afraid of and what we cannot see (something logical considering that in the absence of light the only thing visible is blackness). This also means that it is associated with aspects that are also unknown and frightening to us, the most well-known being death (it is one of the colours most associated with mourning, although not the only one). It is also related to loneliness, suffering, sadness and longing.
Also with cruelty, lies, manipulation, betrayal and concealment. Denial is considered the antithesis of the visible (for example, if light red represents energy and passion, its association with black is often linked to violence and excess) and danger. Moreover, it has also been related to individualism and introversion .
On the other hand, although traditionally the negative aspects with which it is related are usually valued above all, the truth is that black also has more neutral or even positive connotations. It is the colour of mystery (which does not always have to be negative), seriousness and elegance, as well as that of nobility. Perhaps because of its link to death, it is also usually linked to strength and power, to the absolute and to dominance and autonomy. Also of rebellion against the established. And even though it may seem strange, sometimes even with peace and the end of pain. It is also a symbol of simplicity, order and interior life.
Psychologically, black tends to generate a sense of doubt and mystery, and can generate both fear and curiosity. It is associated, according to Eva Heller, with youth and impartiality. In addition to this it generates a sensation of elegance, which usually suggests security and strength , as well as distinctiveness. Its practical use often leads to the appreciation of greater reliability and even attractiveness by others. It also tends to give the impression of sobriety and formality. But it can also provoke feelings of intimidation, distance and arrogance if given too much. It also tends to create a sense of protection for the user and an attenuation of the emotional, even the restriction and inhibition of expression.
The use of black in daily life
Although it has traditionally been a frowned upon colour, black is used in a wide range of settings and contexts.
Probably one of the contexts in which the use of black is best known is that of funerals, being one of the most widespread mourning colours in Western society. However, black is appropriate for a large number of celebrations, some much more joyful. For example, it is the colour that the bride and groom usually wear at weddings, due to its link with force, security and formality .
Beyond specific social events, black is often used because it is stylish and easily combined with almost any color. It is commonly used by people who do not like to draw attention to themselves. In some cases, it can also be used to give the impression of being mysterious or rebellious. In addition, it is a colour that tends to absorb heat, something to avoid in already hot environments or to look for in colder ones.
It is a colour that is also useful in the work environment, giving a feeling of seriousness and professionalism in job interviews . In many professions it is a common colour due to the already mentioned relationship with seriousness and impartiality, as in the case of judges.
As for their use in homes and inside buildings, they often give an impression of masculinity and sophistication. Despite this, it is not advisable to paint a room completely black, since it will give a sensation of constriction and smallness and will probably be linked to psychic states of a depressive type . As far as business meetings are concerned, its link with concealment does not make it entirely appropriate beyond concrete elements either.
However, the use of black decorations and elements as a contrast will generate the above-mentioned feeling of sobriety. As with clothing, the fact that it absorbs heat can also be valued.
At the level of marketing and advertising, it is often used in brands that seek to generate a vision of elegance and exclusivity, strength and purity. It is generally linked to luxury, along with gold.
The color black in different cultures
The meaning of black is usually the one we have talked about before, but it is necessary to take into account that different cultures have a different relationship with that colour.
Specifically, in desert places, black is usually associated with rain, and storm clouds are of that color. In ancient Egypt it was a symbol of growth and fertility . Today, also African tribes like the Masai often relate black to life and prosperity, because they are often associated with rain.
Other cultures like the Japanese link it to femininity, as well as to mystery. In ancient China, he was considered the king of colors. These cultures often link black with the element of water, as well as with childhood. It is thought that this color gives us spiritual strength, linking with the energy known as chi. It was also considered beautiful, to the extent that it was once considered beautiful to dye one’s teeth with the colour.
As far as religions are concerned, Christianity often identified it with evil, death and pain, although it also rejected the material. Also in the case of Judaism it has been associated with death and unhappiness, and in the case of Islam it is associated with pain and sadness (although the Kaaba of Mecca is black, it is thought that it was white in its origin but it was dyed by the sin of men). In India it is also associated with nothingness and evil, although it is used as protection against it: the goddess Kali has a complexion of this colour, being the goddess who fights against evil.