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Color may influence the way information is processed and possibly may improve the ability to recall both words and pictures (Myers, 2004). A study testing the recall of black and white pictures compared to color pictures showed a significant difference in the remembrance of colored photographs as long as the photographs were of natural scenes and was normally colored. When the photographs were incorrectly colored, they were not recalled any better than the black and white photographs.
Different colors can have different effects on people (Myers, 2004). Blue is often used for relaxation and will cause the brain to produce tranquility hormones, whereas red is used to increase adrenaline and energy levels. Orange is sometimes used to try and generate the feeling of hunger. Marketing advertisement agencies often teach which colors will best attract the interest of the consumer and catch their attention in order to possibly increase the chance of selling certain products. Banks often use blue to suggest tranquility and offer a hint of being safe and secure. The traffic signal colors are used because these are colors that people are familiar with. Red refers to stop; it is used to get peopleís attention. Green is used to inform people that it is okay to continue, and yellow is used for caution.
There is some research on how color in pictures can increase the memory of that picture or item, but there is little research, that I have found, concerning the use of color to help with studying, such as with the use of highlighted words. According to Denby (2002), finding the color that best stimulates memorization could increase a personís study skills. The colors should be bright so as not to confuse a person with certain disorders such as color blindness or an aging condition of they eye known as presbyopia, as lighter colors start to fade, they might not have the contrast needed to distinguish a particular word that is highlighted from the other words on the page. The color of the background may have to be changed for a person that has dyslexia.
People are used to seeing words written in black ink, so to catch someoneís attention, highlight or write the specific word that is needed to be remembered in a color different than black, such as the color red. A study performed on newspaper black and white ads had a recall rate of 6 percent, but an advertisement placed using color had a recall rate of 21 percent (Denby, 2002). There are many websites available to give a person some study hints and most of them will suggest the use of highlighting key words or phrases (Rapaport, 2004). The color red is bright and has a high contrast to the color of black, which should set the particular word apart enabling the word to be more easily remembered.
I am interested in finding out if red, the color used to get someoneís attention or to signify danger, will increase the memorization of words. Textbooks often use bold black or italics to set apart an important word or phrase, but could it be possible that the words or phrases to be set apart would be better remembered if they were in a brighter color, such as red? My son has learning difficulties and I would like to find out if it would help his spelling and remembrance of harder words if they were set apart from the words he seems to have an easier time remembering. Would this use of red lettering help him in remembering more difficult items of which the teachers are interested in or help him study for a test if this word was set apart from the other less important words and phrases? The purpose of this study is to see if using the color red on words will help increase memorization of these words as long as it sets them apart from other words on a page.
A mixed-design ANOVA was calculated to examine the percentage of black words that were correctly remembered and red words that were correctly remembered. No significant main effects or interactions were found (Figure 1).
The results of this study show that it might be better to highlight more than one word to increase memorization when using the color red. The results may have been different if another color other than red was to be used. As Denby (2002) stated, finding the color that best stimulates memorization could increase a personís study skills. A different study could be used to test the different colors to see if a specific color has the potential to increase the memorization of single words. Another study could be created to show if different colors show an increase of memorization of single words compared to phrases.
Hanna, A., & Remington, R. (1996). The representation of color and form in long-term memory. Memory and Cognition. May 1996, 24, 322-330.
Myers, J. (2004). The color of learning. Fundamentals, Training and Development. February 2004, 19-20.
Rapaport, W. J. (2004). How to study. Retrieved February 28, 2004. From www.cse.buffalo.edu/~rapaport/howtostudy.html.
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