Colors influence our daily perceptions and expectations which can manifest in a variety of ways. This research has three main objectives: the first is to demonstrate this effect on the relationship between the colors of pills and their perceived and expected efficacies. The second is to test this effect on a wide variety of demographics, thereby demonstrating that categories such as ethnicity, location, age, gender, educational levels, and pill usage frequency can influence the choices made by participants. Finally, the third objective is to understand the reasoning behind the choices made by participants, as well as the color associations exhibited. The stimuli colors chosen in this research are blue, green, red, white, and yellow, and the efficacies of interest are sedative, stimulant, anti-anxiety, pain-relief, and hallucinogenic. This research does not involve the intake of drugs by participants, but rather collects data via surveys. Three surveys were run separately over a span of 18 months. The first survey was conducted physically at two of RIT’s global campuses: USA and UAE on standardized iPad devices. The second survey was done online and covered four of RIT’s global campuses: USA, UAE, Croatia, and Kosovo. The third survey was launched online at five RIT global campuses: USA, UAE, Croatia, Kosovo, and China. While there were some clear patterns and similarities identified in the results, differences were also apparent across the various demographics considered in this study. It is evident that four out of the six efficacies tested had a strong association with a particular color, while the results of the remaining two efficacies varied based on different demographics. The strongest and most consistent color associations were those of white with pain relief and red with stimulant efficacies. The emerged patterns will help pharmaceutical companies, as well as medical practitioners, to better design and prescribe drugs, thus maximizing the effects of the pills on patients overall, and increasing their compliance rates.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Pills--Color--Psychological aspects; Drugs--Effectiveness--Public opinion

Publication Date


Document Type


Student Type


Degree Name

Color Science (Ph.D.)


Michael J. Murdoch

Advisor/Committee Member

Richard L. Doolittle

Advisor/Committee Member

Mark D. Fairchild


RIT – Main Campus

Plan Codes