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Red, Blue, And A More Productive You

Do certain colors affect how we think and behave, or how well we perform at work? Find out on this Moment of Science.

Alternating red and blue colored storage units

Photo: slimmer_jimmer (flickr)

Studies have shown that red colors can help you concentrate and do better on tasks that require attention to detail. Blue colors may enhance your ability to excel at creative work.

One of our readers wrote in with this question: Is it true that certain colors affect how we think and behave, or how we perform at work?

Great question. And in fact, psychologists have found that colors very well may influence our mindset and behavior. For example, studies have shown that red colors can help you concentrate and do better on tasks that require attention to detail. Blue colors may enhance your ability to excel at creative work.

Psychologists think that we learn to associate colors with various moods and emotions. So, for example, for most people red signals danger and caution. So being in a reddish environment, or seeing red images on your computer screen or wherever, triggers that danger signal in the brain, which makes you more aware and alert. You may not literally feel afraid or in danger, but you’re in a state of greater awareness and attention.

We tend to associate blue with openness and freedom. Blue is known to have a calming effect, which is good for free-flowing, creative work. But some hues of blue can seem kind of depressing.

Not all hues of blue have the same effect. Some blues are downers, and some bright reds are more upbeat than they are cautionary. In those cases, the effects are reversed. The point is that colors – whatever they may be – affect our behavior.

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