A few years ago, an American Football team painted the visiting team’s changing room pink, a colour thought to have an adverse effect on the visiting team’s performance – somehow they were less energetic, less on the ball…
Complaints were made to the sport’s governing body who investigated the claims but were unable to come up with any hard scientific proof. Nonetheless, the issue was resolved by the application of the Wisdom of Solomon – in future, teams would be allowed to paint their changing rooms in whatever colour they wished, so long as both changing rooms were painted the same colour.
It has long been recognised that colour can affect mood – red colours increase competitiveness among children whereas shades of blue encourage quiet behaviour.
Which colours are best for concentration and which for relaxation is something that has long been debated, but scientists have at long last been able to confirm that brightly decorated rooms and bright colours such red and yellow, can boost concentration levels. Researchers at Curtin University, Australia have confirmed that students’ levels of focus are improved when they are surrounded by vivid colours.
Student volunteers were given a series of reading and memory (comprehension) tests in six different rooms with six different colour schemes. Students scored significantly higher marks when the tests had been carried out in the more brightly decorated red and yellow rooms.
It appears that bright colours can, and do, enhance learning performance by positively affecting the learner’s psychological state. The vivid colours were shown to increase arousal. They were also shown to increase pulse rates, whereas shades of blue decreased pulse rates and learning ability.
These results are consistent with the Yerkes-Dodson Law, which proposes that arousal improves performance up to an optimal level, although too much arousal can cause a drop in performance.
Here’s the irony: when questioned, two-thirds of participants believed vivid red wasn’t a suitable colour for a study environment because they associated it with danger, anger, discomfort, annoyance and even depression. They believed that pale colours would be a more appropriate scheme for learning environments because they are considered calm and relaxing.
Calming they may be, but they may not help students to be alert and active. Pale colours are good for relaxation, as are varying shades of green, which are also good for helping you ‘think outside the box.’
However, the undeniable fact is that the students performed better in the vivid colour environments because these colours have arousing properties that stimulate neural activity, especially if the task at hand is boring.