Tweak Your Brain With Colors


For an all-natural brain boost, skip the pills and hit the colors.

In the latest and most authoritative study on color’s cognitive effects, test subjects given attention-demanding tasks did best when primed with the color red. Asked to be creative, they responded best to blue.

“Color enhances performance,” said study co-author Juliet Zhu, a University of British Columbia psychologist.

Previous research on red’s effects on the brain have found that it attracts people to food and can enhance sexual arousal. But research on the color’s cognitive effects have been mixed: Studies have linked red to cognitive impairment on IQ tests, telemarketing pitches and analytical problem-solving, but also to improvements on low-demand tasks and clerical work. The latest findings tip the balance toward the red-as-brain-booster results and fits with work that showed a link between the color and arousal of neurobiological awareness and vigilance.

“Think about red, and what comes to mind: stop lights, stop signs, danger, ambulances,” said Zhu. “People want to avoid those things, and that’s why they do better on detail-oriented tasks.”

While earlier studies tended not to test creativity, Zhu’s findings provide a plausible explanation for blue’s apparent role.

“Blue is the color of the sky, the ocean, safety,” she said. “When their environment is safe, people are more explorative.”

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Photo by Wired.

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