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Color and Learning

The color of a room or a computer screen can change the atmosphere of a room and behavior. Find out which colors you may want to select and which ones to avoid.

Colors send signals to the brain without us even thinking about it. Some are soothing, some are not. Some help us focus, some are distracting.
Pale Yellow/Almond
If you were to select the best colors for bedrooms and classrooms, which colors would be best? Dunn and Dunn have found that pale yellow and almond seem to be the best colors for not irritating anyone. These colors would be a good general color for school hallways.
Light Pink/Rose
Light pink and rose are very soothing colors. They would be very suitable for a BD classroom, Behavior Disorder, or a Kindergarten room where activity is high. Some basketball teams paint the opponent's locker room pink hoping to "calm" them before the game. Some jails are painted pink.
Creativity seems to be inspired by the color green. An art room would be the choice for green as well as a creative writing classroom.
Blue is the color of academics. A science or math room would be a good candidate for this color. Light blue could also be a good overall classroom color. It is also soothing and computer screens are often light blue for a good reason. When bright or irritating colors are used on computers, students are not able to work without figeting, work for shorter lengths of time and become more aggressive toward each other. Computer screens, especially in BD, Behavior Disorder, rooms and for ADHD students, should be pale blue or pale pink.

Orange, Yellow and Red
These are often called Hot Dog colors. Bright yellow excites the brain and body. This may be a great color for an exercise room but not a bedroom or study hall.
The color orange seems to agitate. Painting a bedroom orange would probably keep the child awake longer at night. Putting two siblings into an orange bedroom would probably result in them not sleeping and fighting, as well. Orange would probably be the worst color to paint a school cafeteria.
Color and Food
Red often triggers hunger. What colors are used for fast food restaurant signs? KFC, Hardees, McDonald's, Pizza Hut, Burger King and convenience stores have what colors on their roofs, buildings and signs? You may not have been hungry until you looked at the sign. Suddenly, you have the urge for a shake, fries and a burger. That is not a coincidence.
You send a child to their room to do homework. Red pillows and decorations fill the room. Don't be surprised if the child comes out for snacks often while doing homework.
Color, lighting, temperature all affect our brains, bodies, how we learn and how we behave.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, a picture with natural colors may be worth a million, memory-wise. Psychologists have documented that "living color" does more than appeal to the senses. It also boosts memory for scenes in the natural world. The findings, reported in the May issue of the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition, published by the American Psychological Association (APA), shed light on how the visual system efficiently exploits color information. Conceivably, by hanging an extra "tag" of data on visual scenes, color helps us to process and store images more efficiently than colorless (black and white) scenes, and as a result to remember them better, too.
In Europe, a trio of psychologists conducted five experiments (participants, in order, numbered 36, 34, 31, 20 and 20) to explore color's role in memory for natural scenes such as forests, rocks and flowers. In the basic experiment, participants looked at 48 photographs, half in color and half in black and white. Then, they viewed the same 48 images randomly mixed with 48 new images, and indicated if they had seen (or not) each picture. Participants remembered the colored natural scenes significantly better than they remembered black and white images, regardless of how long they saw the images.
People who saw images in color but were tested on them in black and white, and vice versa, did not remember them as well. This finding suggests that image colors are part and parcel of initial storage, attached to how objects "appear" in our memory.
Through experimental variations, the researchers ruled out whether color's built-in appeal caused the advantage by grabbing participants' attention better than would black and white. Among other findings, people did not remember falsely colored natural scenes any better than scenes in black and white -- suggesting that it wasn't any color that strengthened memory, but rather natural color. Says co-author Karl Gegenfurtner, Ph.D., "It appears as if our memory system is tuned, presumably by evolution and/or during development, to the color structure found in the world. If stimuli are too strange, the system simply doesn't engage as well, or deems them unimportant." Gegenfurtner, who was with the Max-Planck Institut fur Biologische Kybernetik when the experiments were conducted, is now with Giessen University.
The visual industries may find these studies valuable. "Perhaps designers should be aware that, in order to engage or grab one's attention (as in advertising), bright colors might well be most suitable," Wichmann observes. "If, on the other hand, the aim is more to have an image stick in the viewer's memory, unnatural colors may not be suitable."
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