Naureen Aqueel

Well red

Posted on: February 17, 2008

An edited version of this article was published in Dawn Magazine, February 17, 2008.

Colour is integral to our lives. We cannot imagine life without the beauty and liveliness that colour injects into our lives. Colour is central to our perceptual experiences of the world around us. But more than just lending beauty to our world, colour has an effect on our psychological functioning as well.

Psychologists have long focused on the effect different colours have on our psychological functioning, physiological reactions, moods and emotions. Explanations for this relationship range from those proffering the role of learned associations to those attributing it to biological predispositions.

An interesting piece of research on the subject by Andrew J. Elliot and his colleagues was published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology (2007). Through a series of complex experiments with varying conditions to ensure validity and reliability, this group of researchers examined the influence of the colour red on performance in achievement contexts. In the first four experiments, the researchers found that the brief perception of red prior to an important test (ranging from anagram tests to IQ tests) led to impaired performance, without the participants in the experiments being conscious of it. Exposure to the colours was achieved by placing coloured participant numbers or coloured folio paper. The same effect was not present after exposure to other colours.

The next two experiments established the link between red and avoidance motivation or the motivational tendency that arises out of a fear to avoid failure and negatively influences performance. This link was apparent in both behavioural measures apparent in task choice and in psycho-physiological measures observable in cortical activation etc.

The research demonstrates how even brief exposure to the colour red can subtly influence behaviour and psychological functioning and impair one’s performance in achievement contexts. The researchers are however unsure whether this influence of the colour red is culturally based (since teachers mark mistakes with red and red symbolizes danger in some contexts) or biologically based.

However, one thing is clear. It would be safer to avoid exposing yourself to red when undertaking some important task where achievement is valued.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

My portfolio

This website is a collection of my published and unpublished articles.

Blog Stats

  • 16,837 hits

Twitter Updates

Error: Twitter did not respond. Please wait a few minutes and refresh this page.

February 2008
« Jan   Mar »
%d bloggers like this: