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What does lilac mean in Psychology?

What does lilac mean in Psychology?

November 5, 2022

The color lilac is one of the shades of violet, which is generated by the combination of the latter with the color white. The violet, in turn, can be obtained by the combination of a cold color (blue) and a warm color (red).

Both violet and lilac have been related to psychological and cultural meanings different, that we will see developed below.

  • Related article: "Psychology of color: meaning and curiosities of colors"

Description and characteristics of this color

The lilac color gets its name from the botanical species syringa vulgaris, which includes flowers whose distinctive feature is this color. It includes a wide range of shades ranging from light lilac to common lilac, passing through French lilac, mauve and lavender.


Likewise, lilac can be obtained by the combination of violet color with white color , which is why it is considered as one of the many types of violet that exist. Other derivatives of violet are, for example, purple, purple or burgundy. Each one varies according to the intensity of the violet itself.

On the other hand, violet is considered one of the primary colors by the RGB System (Red, Green, Blue), which is the chromatic analysis developed by Isaac Newton through the decomposition of sunlight. This decomposition was obtained by means of a glass prism with several wavelengths, which achieved a chromatic circle with the colors violet, indigo, blue, green, yellow, orange and red.


For the RGB system, white light can be recreated by adding three colored lights: green, blue-violet and red-orange. These lights are those that can not be obtained by the combination of others, so primary colors are considered. This system is the one It has been used to analyze light properties, not pigments , of each colour.

For the analysis of its pigment properties (which has made it possible to systematize colors in inks), another system known as CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Key) was developed. In this system the colors that can not be obtained by the mixture of others are blue, yellow and red (the primary colors); with the addition of black as a base pigment. For CMYK, the violet color is a secondary color, which emerges from the combination of red and blue. On the other hand, the lilac color is generated by the combination of violet and white, which is why it is considered one of the many tonalities of the first.


How do we perceive the lilac?

In the retina of the human eye, violet and lilac are perceived by the simultaneous excitation of the blue cones and red cones, located in the fovea (at the center of the macula lutea of ​​the eye). These cones act as trichromatic receptors through the optic nerve, which is responsible for communicating chromatic messages to the brain.

Through a wavelength between 380 and 420 nm (which unfolds before exposure with chromatic stimulus), the blue and red lights are generated, which finally allow us to perceive the violet , as well as its different tonalities.

This is one of the descriptions of the color processing mechanisms offered by physiology. However, also psychology and anthropology have explained what are some meanings at the individual and cultural level of colors. Let's see some of them below.

  • Maybe you're interested: "The 11 parts of the eye and its functions"

Meaning of lila in psychology

For psychology, color is closely related to emotions. This is because, after perceiving the chromatic ranges through the optic nerve, the rest of our system activates different emotions related to our personal and sociocultural experiences with each color.

For example, for the psychology of color, cold colors, like blue, are quintessentially those that transmit feelings of tranquility, while warm colors, such as red, are those that generate excitement. To himself, as Eva Heller (2004) has proposed, each color can change its meaning according to how it is mixed with other colors.

In this sense, the same author proposes that the lilac color has been related in the western culture with an ambiguous image about women's cosmetics, vanity and maturity . In other tonalities, the violet color can be related to the frivolous and at the same time to the originality.

Likewise, when found in one of the lowest tones of violet, the lilac color has been associated with the tranquility, the sweetness, the warmth, the moderation and the little impact. It is not usually related to negative behaviors, on the contrary, it is associated with sensitivity, empathy, kindness, balance and maturity.

All the above has served to use the colors in a strategic way according to the sensations and emotions that they want to provoke.This has impacted different spheres, ranging from psychotherapy to architecture and marketing. For example, it was the representative color of the extravagance of art nouveau.

Cultural meanings of lilac

Colors not only activate perceptions and emotional experiences at the individual level, but they can mobilize different social codes according to how they have been used culturally. Even within the same culture the meaning of the colors and their tonalities can vary. For example, in Europe the purple color implies penance, although the violet color in light tones is related to humility .

In the same sense, one of the first classifications of color according to their social meanings was made by Goethe, who related violet color, at a moral level, with the useless or the profitable. On the intellectual level I related it to fantasy and the unreal. In terms of social status identifies him with artists, and at the level of cultural traditions with spirituality, magic and theology.

In fact, for the church, the violet and its different shades have symbolized love and truth, although in constant tension with passion and suffering. In fact, they are the colors associated with representative eras such as Lent and Advent, which are celebrated before Easter and before Christmas respectively. On the same dates, these colors are used in the habits of the bishops.

On the other hand, in South America the purple color was related with joy , because it was in abundance in different flowers and crops throughout the year. Finally, in recent times, the color violet has been associated with feminist movements in different parts of the world.

Bibliographic references:

  • Heller, E. (2004). Color psychology. How colors act on feelings and reason. Editorial Gustavo Gili: Spain.
  • Llorente, C. (2018). Comparative analysis of the chromatic symbology in advertising. Nike in China and Spain. Vivat Academica. Journal of Communication, 142: 51-78.
  • Parodi Gastañeta, F. (2002). The chromosemiotic. The meaning of color in visual communication. Retrieved September 17, 2018. Available in //200.62.146.19/bibvirtualdata/publicaciones/comunicacion/n3_2002/a07.pdf.
  • Rivera, M. A. (2001). Perception and meaning of color in different social groups. Image Magazine, 53: 74-83.

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