Feeling blue? The influence of colour idioms on the perceived emotional valence of emotionally ambiguous facial expressions.

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Colour idioms are characteristic expressions whose meaning cannot be understood from the words used in the expression (Alotaibi, 2020). These can be used to express emotionality (Kemertelidze & Griorgadze, 2021), intensify speech and increase the impact of the message (Malá, 2003). Much research has been done on colour idioms in other languages, but Dutch colour idioms have not yet been explored. Earlier literature in colour psychology has shown that colour seems to evoke positive and negative associations and that these associations enhance the perception of positive and negative emotions. But what happens if emotionally ambiguous facial expressions are rated on emotional valence, and do colour idioms as a function of language, play a role in this process? This study contains a qualitative approach on colour idiom and their valence. Furthermore, it reports an experiment in which 109 participants do a task in which stimuli are rated on their emotional valence. This involves stimuli expressing ambiguous emotions (surprise and neutrality), combined with positive and negative coloured backgrounds. A direct effect of language is tested through verbal interference. Results showed that colour has an effect on perceived emotionally ambiguous emotions and hereby confirms claims of earlier research. However, neither language, nor idiom familiarity, were found to have an effect on perceived valence of emotions. This might suggest that colour idioms strengthen pre-existing colour associations.
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