Blues and reds enhance creativity, attention to detail

February 7th, 2009 - 4:31 pm ICT by IANS  

Toronto, Feb 7 (IANS) Which colour optimises brain performance and receptivity to advertising: red or blue? Both can, depending on the nature of the task or message, says a study by University of British Columbia (UBC).The study found that red is the most effective at enhancing our attention to detail, while blue is best at boosting our ability to think creatively.

“Previous research linked blue and red to enhanced cognitive performance, but disagreed on which provides the greatest boost,” said Juliet Zhu of UBC’s Sauder School of Business, author of the study.

Between 2007 and 2008, the researchers tracked more than 600 participants’ performance on six cognitive tasks that required either detail-orientation or creativity. Most experiments were conducted on computers, with a screen that was red, blue or white.

Red boosted performance on detail-oriented tasks such as memory retrieval and proof reading by as much as 31 percent compared to blue. Conversely, for creative tasks such as brainstorming, blue environmental cues prompted participants to produce twice as many creative outputs as when under the red colour condition.

These variances are caused by different unconscious motivations that red and blue activate, said Zhu, noting that colour influences cognition and behaviour through learned associations.

“Thanks to stop signs, emergency vehicles and teachers’ red pens, we associate red with danger, mistakes and caution,” said Zhu, whose previous research has looked at the impact of ceiling height on consumer choices, said an UBC release.

“Through associations with the sky, the ocean and water, most people associate blue with openness, peace and tranquility,” said Zhu. “The benign cues make people feel safe about being creative and exploratory. Not surprisingly it is people’s favourite colour.”

These findings were published in the February issue of Science.

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