Yellow is for safety: perceptual and affective perspectives

  • Kesong HuEmail author
  • Eve De Rosa
  • Adam K. AndersonEmail author
Original Article


Is there a link between color and safety? Yellow is often used in safety contexts. Using the Singapore accident record datasets, Ho et al. provided evidence that yellow taxis have fewer accidents than blue taxis (Ho et al. in Proc Natl Acad Sci 114(12):3074–3078, 2017). Does yellow differentially influence attention and action and if so is this related to purely visual or affective factors? Here, we examined the visual priority of yellow relative to luminance matched colors at opposing ends of the wavelength spectrum (i.e., red and blue), using a temporal order judgment task, between color pairs. Despite being matched in arousal, when yellow and blue were pitted against each other, yellow was consistently seen as occurring first, even when objectively appearing second at short stimulus onset asynchronies. Despite being matched in valence, yellow again showed a larger temporal priority when it was pitted against red. Yellow temporal priority bias was modulated by individual differences in regulatory focus, highlighting a potential affective-motivational origin. These results support that yellow is a safety color, having a temporal advantage, and further evidence that colors have special influences on cognition, perception and behavior.



We thank Celine Cammarata, and Ross Markello for assistance with subject recruitment and data collection. We also thank Juan Lupiáñez for constructive suggestions on an earlier draft of the paper, and all participants for their contribution.

Data availability

The data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding authors upon request.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Human DevelopmentCornell UniversityIthacaUSA
  2. 2.Human Neuroscience InstituteCornell UniversityIthacaUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyLake Superior State UniversitySault Ste. MarieUSA

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