What if you found out there was a shade of pink that could suppress your appetite, calm your nerves, and reduce your aggression levels?

Well, an old relic of pop psychology has recently resurfaced after Kendall Jenner announced she had painted her entire living room in the shade Baker-Miller pink, a colour that scientific research has long linked to the above behaviours.

This particular phenomena was first observed in the late '60s, when Alexander Schauss, director of Life Sciences at the American Institute for Biosocial Research in Tacoma, was researching earlier studies which found that a person's colour preference reveals data about their psychological and physiological state, reports News.com.au.

As their moods shift, so do colour choices.

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Schauss was amazed by the findings and wondered if the reverse might also apply - if colour could, rather than be a signpost of a person's state, actually cause emotional and hormonal changes.

A decade later he was experimenting similar theories on himself, and hit upon a certain shade of pink which elicited a strong effect on him.

Even staring at a poster-sized card of this colour had what he noted was a "marked effect on lowering the heart rate, pulse and respiration, as compared to other colours."

Excited by the possibilities, Schauss expanded his research, teaming up with the directors of a Naval prison in Washington State in 1979 to run a series of experiments on the unwitting inmates.

Confinement cells were painted in the shade of pink, and incidences of violence were monitored.

Astounding, the walls immediately calmed prisoners, and changes in behaviour were noted after as little as fifteen minutes of exposure to the colour.

Even the official Navy report reads like the results were a shock: "Since the initiation of this procedure on 1 March 1979, there have been no incidents of erratic or hostile behaviour during the initial phase of confinement."

The colour was officially named Baker-Miller pink, a tribute to the two Naval directors who allowed the experiments to be held at the prison.

Another surprising effect was discovered years later by researchers at Johns Hopkins University, who observed appetite suppression in research subjects while studying the aforementioned stress-reduction.

Tinted sunglasses that paint the world in a Baker-Miller hue have since been marketed over the decades as a weight-loss tool.

Of course, while this knowledge can be helpful, it can also used in nefarious ways.

During the '80s, college football teams in Colorado State would paint the visiting team's locker room in Baker-Miller Pink in an attempt to relax the opposing team - a detrimental physiological state in a highly-charged physical sport.

The impact was deemed to be so intrusive that the Western Athletic Conference governing body introduced a rule where both teams' locker rooms had to be painted the same colour.

It all sounds too good to be true, and some modern scientists would tend to agree.
Dr Zena O'Connor works in colour psychology, and has extensively studied, taught and written about the interface between colour and human response.

The colour was officially named Baker-Miller pink, a tribute to the two Naval directors who allowed the experiments to be held at the prison. Photo / Getty Images
The colour was officially named Baker-Miller pink, a tribute to the two Naval directors who allowed the experiments to be held at the prison. Photo / Getty Images

Her book Colour Psychology and Colour Therapy: Caveat Emptor points out that, by today's standards, the original Baker-Miller studies lacked scientific rigour - with participants monitored for a mere 15 minutes while inside the drunk tank.

O'Connor argues that any change in behaviour could be put down to the novelty factor of a pink holding cell, writing: "Pink is an unlikely and highly improbable colour in most contexts and hence, pink in this context would likely act as a visual distraction and perhaps an entertaining diversion rather than acting as a catalyst for a hardwired response that minimised violent behaviour or aggression."

Speaking to news.com.au, she elaborates further.

"There are actually few strong reactions to colour. Most are due to the associations we assign to colour - red is passionate, blue is calming, etc - and these association vary considerably by age, gender, cultural background, education and social conditioning.

"Plus, colour perception is always influenced by context and this gives rise to a range of reactions depending on changes in context."

To hammer home the point, she explains how "hues similar to diarrhoea poop" may seem to elicit a universal negative reaction, but it will always depends on context.

"A Maserati in diarrhoea poop brown might attract more positive reactions", she reasons.

Colour psychology remains a controversial subject, under-researched, with widespread perception that the field as a sham.

"The field is full of an inordinate number of charlatans and 'snake-oil salespeople'", O'Connor admits. "There is very little if any evidence-based information and way too much 'pop psychology'".

Most researchers shy away because of the amount of colour psychology nonsense that's flooded the internet.

"There are some people that strongly believe colour has an impact and are no doubt influenced by that belief; and there are others that hold different, and/or opposing beliefs about colour."

Like most theories not backed empirically by science, it comes down to personal experience.

The fact is that placebos do work.

The human brain is a fascinating thing, and if you can look at Baker-Miller pink, and it calms your behaviour, soothes your worries, and - hell - even suppresses your appetite a bit, then the actual scientific reason why it works is unimportant.