Research from psychologist Juliet Zhu of British Columbia Univerisity suggests that colors change more about our lives than we think. While blue is seen as a very relaxed color promoting creativity and free thinking, red is a color that has quite a different effect. The changes of these different colors are so strong that students given IQ tests while being primed with different colors show vastly different results. And these effects could be strong enough to alter how we perceive people wearing different colors of clothing.
Red is a color that promotes excitement, danger, and jumpstarts amorous emotions, but it also has a tendency to help shut down cognitive thinking. These instant brain hacks are suspected to have come from evolutionary traits coming from a far more primitive time and be linked directly to evolution. Red is the color of sunrise and sunset and marks transition in the human experience. It is also the color of blood, suggesting danger may be lurking somewhere ahead, strengthening reflexes.
Blue, on the other hand is the same color as the day lit sky and much needed water sources. It is the color suggesting something positive is happening and provides comfort and promotes creative thought. Those seeing a great deal of blue are known to react more slowly and feel more relaxed. This of course promotes better creativity and the freedom to think independently.
So if different colors make us react differently as this research suggests, it may provide insight into how differently we could create the world. How different might the education system be if red markers, which normally give the impression of negativity were transformed into green or blue to teach that criticism is an opportunity for growth rather than opposition to free thought? What if the color system were changed in other ways as well? It may provide us a deeper insight into design as well, making each new location a full experience rather than just a decorated space. And of course it may provide us the ability to convey tone through text as well.
Of course the current understanding of color conveying emotion is still a subject that leaves much still to be explained. How finely tuned is this relationship between our environment and our own perception? What are the exact effects of other colors? Are there unintended consequences that can follow a prolonged exposure to one color or another? And how drastic are these psychological effects on different personality types? Are those who are colorblind more prone to certain behaviors due to their condition? While we still search for the answers, it’s easy to forget to stop and simply look at the vast palette of colors that surrounds us at all times.
Meanwhile, test scores may be improved as suggested by Zhu’s research simply by encouraging the use of different colored pencils and writing on paper with blue or red dots depending on the type of test.