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What does purple do to the brain?

The color purple has long been associated with royalty, wisdom, spirituality, and mystery. But beyond its cultural symbolism, the color purple can actually have some surprising effects on the human brain. In recent years, neuroscientists have been studying how exposure to different wavelengths of light can affect our brains, moods, and behaviors. The color purple sits at the end of the visible color spectrum, meaning it has one of the shortest wavelengths. This unique wavelength appears to interact with the brain in intriguing ways. In this article, we’ll explore some of the psychological and biological effects that the color purple can have on the human brain.

The Meaning and Symbolism of Purple

Before looking at the neurological effects, it’s important to understand the cultural context and symbolic meanings associated with the color purple. For centuries, purple dyes were incredibly rare and expensive to produce. The rarity of the color meant that purple fabric became associated with royalty and high social status. Emperors and kings wore purple robes and crowns to display their immense wealth and power. The Purple Heart Medal given to wounded American soldiers carries on this association with valor and nobility. Beyond status, purple is also associated with magic, mystery, creativity, and spirituality. In Catholicism, purple symbolizes penance and mourning. It is the color worn by bishops and cardinals and the color of the Advent and Lent seasons. Purple is also spiritually significant in Judaism, representing God’s kingship and authority. These varied symbolic meanings influence how our brains respond to seeing purple hues.

Psychological Effects

Psychology has shown that different colors can evoke different emotional and behavioral reactions. Studies have found that purple has a number of positive psychological effects:

Inspires Creativity

Purple’s association with creative expression and unconventionality make it an inspiring color. Art therapists have noticed that purple encourages creative thinking, experimentation, imagination, and problem-solving. Purple provides a mental spark that can help generate new ideas.

Promotes Relaxation

Purple has a calming, soothing effect on the mind and body. The cool hue lowers heart rate and reduces anxiety levels. Purple can promote relaxation and deep sleep. Using purple in meditation spaces helps create a relaxing environment.

Boosts Imagination

Related to creativity, purple also seems to activate the imagination center of the brain. Looking at something purple makes it easier to picture things in your mind’s eye. A vivid imagination helps with creative tasks and finding innovative solutions.

Improves Memory

Studies suggest purple may aid memory. Purple wavelengths appear to stimulate areas of the brain involved with recall. People are better able to remember words, numbers, images, and spatial information after exposure to purple.

Increases Sensitivity

Purple makes people more sensitive to beauty and detail. Looking at something purple first makes you feel more open to beauty. The color also encourages close observation of subtle details. Using purple in a classroom can make students more perceptive.

Enhances Mystery

The inherent mystery and spirituality people associate with the color purple makes it feel more magical and intriguing to the mind. Using purple can stimulate feelings of awe and fascination. Purple adds an air of secrecy, uncertainty, and complexity in a positive sense.

Biological Effects

In addition to the psychological impact, the light wavelength of purple also has direct biological effects on the brain:

Increases Alpha Brain Waves

Alpha waves are associated with a state of wakeful relaxation. Spending time in purple rooms has been shown to increase alpha wave production in the brain. This alpha activity boosts creativity, imagination, intuition, and problem-solving skills.

Stimulates the Imagination

As mentioned, purple light specifically activates the imagination center of the brain located in the neocortex. The wavelengths of purple penetrate this area and stimulate imagination networks.

Lowers Anxiety

Purple light therapy has been shown to decrease anxiety and stress hormone levels. The cool wavelength appears to have a calming, soothing influence over the mind. The relaxed state makes it easier to sleep, meditate, and release stress.

Increases Serotonin

Exposure to purple light results in higher levels of serotonin production in the brain. Serotonin is a key neurotransmitter that regulates mood, social behavior, appetite, digestion, sleep, memory, and sexual desire. Higher serotonin levels lead to improved mood and cognitive function.

Elevates Endorphins

Purple also elevates endorphin levels in the brain. Endorphins are neurotransmitters produced in response to pain or stress. Like morphine, endorphins act as analgesics to reduce discomfort and induce euphoria. The endorphin rush brought on by purple light leads to feelings of pleasure.

Cools Down Inflammation

The anti-inflammatory properties of purple light have been shown to reduce inflammation in the brain. Decreasing inflammation improves cognitive performance and protects brain function. Less inflammation means a healthier, more active brain.

Practical Uses of Purple

Understanding the psychological and biological effects of purple allows people to utilize it more effectively in various settings:


Using purple paint, decorations, or lighting in classrooms stimulates creativity, imagination, sensitivity, and memory among students. Purple provides a relaxing environment that keeps students focused and engaged in learning. The color also encourages participation.


Employing purple in office spaces reduces worker stress and anxiety while stimulating productivity. Workers feel more relaxed and creative which leads to greater job satisfaction and performance. Purple offices also promote collaboration and teamwork.


Surrounding patients with purple can help ease pain and speed up healing through increased endorphins and serotonin and decreased inflammation. Soft purple lighting in patient rooms provides a soothing atmosphere.

Spas and Meditation

Purple’s relaxing qualities create the perfect environment for spas and meditation spaces. The color calms the mind, reduces tension, and enhances spiritual awareness and reflection. Using purple candles, accents, or ambient lighting sets the tone.

Imaginative Play Spaces

Children’s play spaces filled with purple objects, wall art, toys, and decor stimulate imaginative play, creativity, and cognitive development in kids. Purple sparks imaginative stories, games, and solutions.

Psychological Effect Biological Effect
Inspires Creativity Increases Alpha Brain Waves
Promotes Relaxation Stimulates the Imagination
Boosts Imagination Lowers Anxiety
Improves Memory Increases Serotonin
Increases Sensitivity Elevates Endorphins
Enhances Mystery Cools Down Inflammation


The color purple has many positive effects on the human brain. Psychologically, it promotes relaxation, creativity, memory, sensitivity, and imagination. Biologically, purple light activates brain areas involved in imagination and creativity, increases beneficial neurotransmitters like serotonin and endorphins, and reduces anxiety and inflammation in the brain. Practical uses of purple take advantage of these properties in places ranging from classrooms and offices to hospitals and spas. While purple is considered the most mystifying color on the visible spectrum, science is shedding light on its very real influence over the brain. Harnessing the power of purple may hold exciting possibilities for boosting mental health, unlocking creativity, and reaching our full cognitive potential.