Humours, Preferences, Communication Codes



The aim of this study is to define if the Four Humours Theory can increase effectiveness and efficiency in communication through advertising. The model is used to develop a Myth for a City as a Destination in the international market.

By studying relevant literature one will find several theories of humour. Theorists like Hobes, Freud, Lauer and others have dealt with the particular characteristics of humour as an attitude in relation with happiness or cheerfulness, surprise, laughter, or even in some cases with humour as an expression or release of sexuality or aggressiveness.

However the etymology of the word humour, leads us to Hippocrates and his theory of the four humours, or in other words the four fluids that run within the human body. These four humours according to Hippocrates and his followers are influenced by genetic characteristics and environmental stimuli. Consequently, the order of them, which changes all the time, defines our physical and psychological states and therefore, our preferences and our responses to certain codes of communications.

The rest of the study is concentrated on this theory, which will be called the “Theory of Four Humours”. A model, which integrates all relative information has been designed and it will be called throughout the study: the “Integrated Model”or “Model”. Chapter 2 presents basic theories of advertising as a process of communication, as described by Kotler, Pavlov, Gobé and others. Special attention should be paid on theories regarding semiotics and perception, the knowledge of which will help to minimize the gap in message encoding and decoding.

In Part 2 of the study, the research is presented, which aims to find if the Model can increase effectiveness and efficiency in Advertising. The research was held in three dimensions: a) the Delfi Group approach b) the questionnaire among a sample of 80 people c) the Focus Group analysis….

Chapter 1

Most people believe that the word “humour” is relevant with words such as joke, comic, fun, comedy, paradox, etc. However, according to the Oxford Universal Dictionary (1968), τhe world humor or humour comes from the Greek word Gr: χυμός or χυμόρ (humour) (in Doric Dialect of Ancient Greek) meaning fluid moisture from the verb Gr: χέωχύνω meaning pour, flow, etc. Lat: humour, It: umore, Fr:  humeur, Eng: humour or humour, Germ: humour, Span: humour Eustathiou (1995) p.267 

 According to the Dictionary and as defined by Hippocrates and his followers such as Galenos, humor or humour is one of the four chief fluids (cardinal humours) of the body blood, phlegm, choler, and melancholy or black choler, by the relative proportions of which a person’s physical and mental qualities and disposition were formerly held to be determined. (p933).  When for example blood is in excess people are in a good mood, more active, cheerful etc. On the contrary when the black bile (in Gr: μέλανχολή, where melan means black, and choly means bile) is in excess, then this cause melancholy (in Gr μελανχολία– melancholia.). It is what we call the black humour. 



Hippocrates theorized that according to the environmental changes the order of the four humours is adapted simultaneously, in order to keep the body harmonized with the various external conditions.  

Thus, for example, during the winter, human body produces more phlegm, which is the coldest among the four humours, in order to keep a balance with the low environmental temperature. While, during the summer it produces more yellow bile (very warm), in order to be in balance with the high environmental temperature.  

The same concept is applied for changes throughout the day, where, for example, the body produces more phlegm during the night, more blood during the early hours of the day, more yellow bile during the midday, and more black bile during the afternoon.  

Hippocrates and his followers found out that as happens with the time of the year and the time of the day the same occurs with the age of a person. Thus for example, as being at their first stage of their life, adolescents produce more blood- sanguine, while adults produce more yellow bile, the middle aged more black bile, and the elderly more phlegm. 


The four


According to this theory, the order of the four humours determines preferences. For example when phlegm is in excess (night, winter, elderly), the person feels cold and moist. Therefore, in order to be in a balanced condition this person needs elements of the hot and dry state. On the contrary, when the yellow bile is in excess, (mid-day, summer, adults) the person requires more cold and moist conditions. Accordingly, when blood is in excess (morning, spring, adolescence), there is eventually a shift in preferences from hot and dry to cold and moist quality, and when the black bile is in excess (afternoon, autumn, middle aged) the shift in preferences is from the cold and moist quality to hot and dry.   

The Preferences 

In emotional advertising, colors, sounds, smells, movements, schemes, as basic environmental elements, produce certain stimuli to message receivers. If the color wheel as developed by Isaac Newton, will be applied to Hippocrates theory, it will define certain relations between the colors and the above-mentioned states of human body, their relevant preferences and the external conditions. Theories of sciences like semiotics, neurobiology an neuro-psychology dedicate that blue is related with phlegm (winter, night, elderly), red with the yellow bile (mid-day, summer, adults), green-yellow and orange are related with blood or sanguine (morning, spring, adolescents), and violet-purple and navy blue with black bile (afternoon, autumn, middle- aged).    

Additionally, regarding sounds and shapes, fast tempo high pitch and large amplitude are related with higher temperatures, like blood and yellow bile states, and slow tempo, low pitch and small amplitude, are related with lower temperature like black bile and phlegm state.    

Codes  of



 Preferences and communication codes, as described in the model, will help Marketing Manager to define relevant elements of the marketing mix and can adapt either the product’s 4 p’s in order to make it more attractive under certain environmental conditions and environmental changes, or the artificial environment in a certain way, so to develop particular physical states.  

 However it is important for those who use the Model, to be aware of the following rules: 


The basic Rules of the Model 


According to Hippocrates if one wants to retain a physical condition should use elements of the same state as derived from the model. However, if one wants to change a physical condition, should choose elements of the opposite state. 

Humours and Advertising 

In advertising, an application of the first rule, “to use analogous elements to retain a certain condition”, is when for example a message designer wants to promote a car to young adolescents. It is more likely to apply yellow or green or orange colours in the advertising campaign, fast tempo with high pitch and high amplitude. Also, to pass the feeling of the air (freedom, release) and why not, to have a sunrise as a background in a hot but moist environment. 

Regarding the second rule, “to use opposite elements to change certain condition”, in the case of the adolescences, it is not a matter of coincidence, that school uniforms and academic caps and gowns are mainly in grey, dark blue, or dark purple, which according to the model are associated to the opposite states.  

 However it has to be noticed, that as Kotler believes, pairing opposites, is more likely to develop stronger feelings and to stand in people’s long-term memory, than using analogous elements. 

 Finally, a research was held, in order to evaluate the model. A sample of 80 people were asked which colour do they prefer for Santa Claus, a refreshment can, a tea mug and a sun protection lotion. According to the research (see attached table), most people preferred red for Santa Claus and for the refreshment can, because both are related with a cold and moist condition and the red colour (hot and dry) would lead to a balanced situation. Additionally, most people preferred blue colour for the tea mug and the sun protection lotion, because, again both the tea mug and the sun protection lotion are associated with a feeling close to hot and dry condition, and they preferred a cold colour (blue) in order to achieve a balanced state.