Colour can produce mental and emotional effects on sighted people in all facets of life. Red, blue, yellow and green all relate respectively to the body, mind, and emotions. You may know how to appear smarter in emails or meetings, even ways to be creative. However, scientists now believe there’s an even simpler way to make you smarter and more creative: colours.
Researchers at the American Association for the Advancement of Science have found that just being exposed to two colours can help improve your memory and innovativeness. In the study, the team presented participants with various tasks that required them to be creative or attentive; these challenges were performed on computers with either red or blue backgrounds.
Survey participants working on computers with red backgrounds did better on tasks that required their attention. Why? The researchers weren’t exactly sure, but they do have a theory:
“Thanks to stop signs, emergency vehicles and teachers’ red pens, we associate red with danger, mistakes and caution,” Professor Juliet Zhu deduced. “The 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.”
Keep in mind the goal of the study was to determine how different colours could be used to enhance marketing efforts. Take toothpaste: when the colour red was most effective was when combined with problem avoidance, like avoiding cavities.
Those working on computers with blue backgrounds on the other hand, came up with double the amount of creative ideas.
“Blue is usually associated with openness, peace, and tranquility. It’s likely to activate an approach motivation. [And] these associations signal a benign environment that encourages people to use innovative—as opposed to ‘tried-and-true’—problem-solving strategies.”
So, in a marketing sense, blue was more effective when combined with positive intentions or goals, like having whiter teeth.
The human eye is said to be able to detect approximately 10 million colours. And each colour affects individuals differently, but some generalizations can be made:
Red is a stimulating colour that can evoke a strong physical response, even activating the “fight or flight” instinct.
Blue is a soothing colour, helping calm the mind and aid concentration. It’s a good colour for helping you complete administrative tasks or projects that require maximum focus.
Yellow is energizing and radiates positivity. If you’re stuck in an ideas rut, yellow can help get the creative juices flowing and make you more optimistic about the direction you’re taking.
Green is harmonizing and, unlike red, doesn’t strain the eyes. It strikes a nice balance between the other primary colours and creates a sense of calm and reassurance.
By paying attention to the effect that colours have on you, you can use them in your everyday life to create the atmosphere, attitude, and energy level that you wish to achieve.
Daniel is an Art Director and Graphic Designer with over a decade of experience in advertising and marketing in the Greater Toronto Area.