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International Journal of Research in Marketing


The present work utilizes research on context effects and color psychology to investigate how background color can enhance the effectiveness of positive and negative charity appeals. Five experiments measuring both actual donations and donation intention examine the hypothesis that a negative charity appeal against an orange (vs. blue) background and a positive charity appeal against a blue (vs. orange) background will increase donations. We propose that this is because blue and orange colors are incongruous with positive and negative charity appeals, respectively, due to the affective valences of the appeals and the perceptions of warmth and coldness cued by the background colors. This incongruity enhances the attention people pay to the charity appeals, thereby strengthening their emotional response to the appeals, which increases charitable donations. When attention is manipulated, people who pay a high (vs. low) level of attention to the charity appeal are more likely to donate regardless of the color and valence of the appeal, suggesting attention is an important antecedent to the intensity of the emotional response and subsequent donation behavior. We also identify affect diagnosticity as a boundary condition for the effect – when people are informed that color affects their emotions, the contextual effect of color disappears.