Color as a Tool to Manage Emotions in the Russian Online Media Publications about COVID-19 Pandemic




color, sociology of emotions, sociology of color, emotion management, COVID-19 pandemic, Russian-language online media


The article provides the results of an analysis of color representations related to COVID-19 pandemic in the Russian online media in terms of dramaturgical, cultural and ritual theories of emotions in sociology. The study was held in February - August 2020 and uses complex techniques including content analysis and online experiments. At the first stage, the authors studied the emotional energy of the coronavirus color images using content analysis. The data the study relies on are coronavirus-related publications made by officially registered Russian online media. Multistage cluster sampling was used to select items (N=1200); Google keyword search tool and dominant color search were used to sort them. Two online experiments involving 344 respondents (246 women and 98 men aged 18-78) were conducted at the second stage; the authors used the Russian version of the Geneva Emotion Wheel (GEW) to analyze the emotional management. The content analysis suggests that the most widely cited visual representation of COVID-19 in the Russian online media is the image of the source of infection – the COVID-19 virus. The color of the image serves to maintain emotional background of the message and correlates with the topic representing the general vision of the situation and its future evolution. Three basic emotions are dominant in the perceptions of the COVID-19 color images across different age and gender groups; they are interest, fear and disgust. Any characteristics of information which usually perform quite well to gain attention (novelty, incertitude, extravagance, and uncertainly) work in the opposite direction when merged with disgust: they evoke an absolutely different emotion which is fear.

Acknowledgments. The study was funded by the Russian Foundation for Basic Research (RFBR), project no. 17-29-09145 “Color mapping: Investigating the Development of Color Terms in the Russian Language Using the Methods of Natural Sciences, Historiography, Social Science and Psychology”.

Author Biographies

Yulia A. Griber, Smolensk State University

  • Smolensk State University, Smolensk, Russia

    • Dr. Sci. (Cultural Studies), Professor of Sociology and Philosophy
    • "Color Lab" Director 

Elena E. Sukhova, Smolensk State University

  • Smolensk State University, Smolensk, Russia

    • Cand. Sci. (Soc.), Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences