You may remember a few weeks ago in one of the weekly color roundups we mentioned an article about a recent study done by the University of British Columbia, Sauder School of Business testing cognitive response in relation to color. With such an interesting and important findings, especially being related to color, I thought we should take a closer look at the findings.
In a yearlong study 600 participants were asked to complete a series of six cognitive tasks that required either attention to detail or creativity. The tasks were conducted on a computer screen with either a red, blue, or white background.
It was found that red increased detail oriented cognitive function such as proofreading and memory by 31% compared to blue which was found to double creative responses in brainstorming exercises compared to those with a red background.
The author of the study, Juliet Zhu of UBC’s Sauder School of Business, who conducted the study with Ravi Mehta, a doctoral student, attribute the findings to unconscious motivation in response to color, noting that these responses develop due to learned associations.
“Thanks to stop signs, emergency vehicles and teachers’ red pens, we associate red with danger, mistakes and caution,” says Zhu, “The avoidance motivation, or heightened state, that red activates makes us vigilant and thus helps us perform tasks where careful attention is required to produce a right or wrong answer.”
As for blue, "Through associations with the sky, the ocean and water, most people associate blue with openness, peace and tranquility,” says Zhu, “The benign cues make people feel safe about being creative and exploratory. Not surprisingly it is people’s favourite colour.”
How much color do I need?
Clearly, if the study was done simply by changing the background of a computer it is not necessary to be completely surrounded by a color for it to have an impact. It is definitely nice to know that i don't need a completely red or completely blue room to accomplish any given task. So, if you need to do a little brainstorming switch over to your favorite blue background, and when you're doing your taxes and don't want to miss a single deduction use a red one.
While these finding were motivated by hopes of advancing advertising, and they seem to be culturally specific, understanding one's own internalized color associations can make a great impact on personal understanding and how others will react, or be able to preform, under the light of different colors.
Images are those used in the study.
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