An 'ecological valence theory' (EVT) has been suggested to explain why people have preferences for different colors. This is the idea that the preference for color is determined by the average affective response to everything the individual associates with the color. Hence, positive emotional experiences with a particular color are likely to increase the propensity to develop a preference for that color and vice versa. Social and cultural factors also factor into this affective response. A study in 2011 on the effects of "school spirit" and color preferences found members of Berkeley were more likely to favor the school's official colors than rival university Stanford. This degree of preference was also correlated with their self-reported level of "school spirit". The researchers conducting the study concluded that this was evidence for the EVT.
The age when infants begin showing a preference for color is at about 12 weeks old. Generally, children prefer the colors red/pink and blue, and cool colors are preferred over warm colors. Color perception of children 3–5 years of age is an indicator of their developmental stage. Color preferences tend to change as people age.
Favoritism of colors varies widely. Often societal influences will have a direct impact on what colors we favor and disdain. In the West, the color black symbolizes mourning and sadness, red symbolizes anger and violence, white symbolizes purity and peace, and yellow symbolizes joy and luck (other colors lack a consistent meaning). From a recent study, it was discussed that associative learning is the process where an individual develops color preferences. In different countries, color preference vary. In China, red indicates luck, while in Nigeria and Germany it means the exact opposite.