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Other namesChromatophobia
A bowl of red strawberries
The fear of the color red is called erythrophobia.

Chromophobia (also known as chromatophobia[1] or chrematophobia[2]) is a persistent, irrational fear of, or aversion to, colors and is usually a conditioned response.[2] While actual clinical phobias to color are rare, colors can elicit hormonal responses and psychological reactions.[3]

Chromophobia may also refer to an aversion of use of color in products or design.[4] Within cellular biology, "chromophobic" cells are a classification of cells that do not attract hematoxylin,[5] and is related to chromatolysis.[6]


Names exist that mean fear of specific colors such as erythrophobia for the fear of red, xanthophobia for the fear of yellow and leukophobia for the fear of white.[2] A fear of the color red may be associated with a fear of blood.[2]


In his book Chromophobia published in 2000, David Batchelor says that in Western culture, color has often been treated as corrupting, foreign or superficial.[7] Michael Taussig states that the cultural aversion to color can be traced back a thousand years,[8] with Batchelor stating that it can be traced back to Aristotle's privileging of line over color.[9]

In a study, hatchling Loggerhead sea turtles were found to have an aversion to lights in the yellow wave spectrum which is thought to be a characteristic that helps orient themselves toward the ocean.[10][11] The Mediterranean sand smelt, Atherina hepsetus, has shown an aversion to red objects placed next to a tank while it will investigate objects of other colors.[12] In other experiments, geese have been conditioned to have adverse reactions to foods of a particular color, although the reaction was not observed in reaction to colored water.[13]

The title character in Alfred Hitchcock's Marnie has an aversion to the color red caused by a trauma during her childhood[14] which Hitchcock presents through expressionistic techniques, such as a wash of red coloring a close up of Marnie.[15]

The term colorphobia can also be used refer to its literal etymological origin to refer to an apprehension towards image processing on one's vision and its visual perceptual property.[16] However, the term's association with a racial component has been used by public figures such as Frederick Douglass.[17]

Leukophobia often takes the form of a fixation on pale skin. Those with the phobia may make implausible assumptions such as paleness necessarily representing ill health or a ghost.[18] In other cases, leukophobia is directed more towards the symbolic meaning of whiteness, for instance in individuals who associate the color white with chastity and are opposed to or fear chastity.[19] In Paul Beatty's novel Slumberland, leukophobia refers to racism.[20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Campbell, Robert Jean (2009). Campbell's Psychiatric Dictionary. Oxford University Press. pp. 186–. ISBN 9780195341591. Retrieved 22 August 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d Doctor, Ronald M.; Kahn, Ada P.; Adamec, Christine (2009-01-01). The Encyclopedia of Phobias, Fears, and Anxieties, Third Edition. Infobase Publishing. pp. 146–. ISBN 9781438120980. Retrieved 22 August 2014.
  3. ^ Ph.D., Gregory Korgeski (2009-11-03). The Complete Idiot's Guide to Phobias. DK Publishing. pp. 232–. ISBN 9781101149546. Retrieved 23 August 2014.
  4. ^ Bleicher, Steven (2005). Contemporary Color Theory and Use. Cengage Learning. pp. 17–. ISBN 9781401837402. Retrieved 22 August 2014.
  5. ^ Cajal, Santiago R.y (1999-03-02). Texture of the Nervous System of Man and the Vertebrates: I. Springer Science & Business Media. pp. 185–. ISBN 9783211830574. Retrieved 22 August 2014.
  6. ^ Acta Physiologica Scandinavica. 1950.
  7. ^ Galt, Rosalind (2011). Pretty: Film and the Decorative Image. Columbia University Press. pp. 44–. ISBN 9780231153478. Retrieved 22 August 2014.
  8. ^ Taussig, Michael (2009-05-01). What Color Is the Sacred?. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 9780226790060. Retrieved 22 August 2014.
  9. ^ Ratliff, Jonathan (2009). The Exploration of Color Theory in Museum Education Using Works Found in the J. B. Speed Museum's Collection. ISBN 9781109300321. Retrieved 22 August 2014.
  10. ^ Witherington, Blair E; Bjorndal, Karen A (1991). "Influences of wavelength and intensity on hatchling sea turtle phototaxis: implications for sea-finding behavior". Copeia. American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists. 1991 (4): 1060–1069. doi:10.2307/1446101. JSTOR 1446101.
  11. ^ Florida Marine Research Institute Technical Reports. Florida Marine Research Institute. 1996.
  12. ^ Psychological Bulletin. American Psychological Association. 1911.
  13. ^ Commons, Michael L.; Herrnstein, Richard J.; Wagner, Allan R. (1982). Acquisition. Ballinger Publishing Company. ISBN 9780884107408. Retrieved 23 August 2014.
  14. ^ Stromgren, Richard L.; Norden, Martin F. (July 1984). Movies, a language in light. Prentice-Hall. ISBN 9780136043072. Retrieved 23 August 2014.
  15. ^ Raubicheck, Walter; Srebnick, Walter (2011). Scripting Hitchcock: Psycho, The Birds, and Marnie. University of Illinois Press. pp. 53–. ISBN 9780252036484. Retrieved 23 August 2014.
  16. ^ Harper, Molly (2009). Nice Girls Don't Live Forever.
  17. ^ Stephens, Gregory (1999). On Racial Frontiers. p. 1.
  18. ^ Robertson, John G. (2003). An Excess of Phobias and Manias: A Compilation of Anxieties, Obsessions, and Compulsions that Push Many Over the Edge of Sanity. Los Angeles: Senior Scribe. p. 114. ISBN 9780963091925.
  19. ^ Adamec, Christine (2009). The Encyclopedia of Phobias, Fears, and Anxieties (3rd ed.). p. 509.
  20. ^ Beatty, Paul (2008). Slumberland. New York: Bloomsbury USA. p. 185. ISBN 9781596912403.