The Writing On The Walls

Apr 18 2011 @ 9:50am

Jonah Lehrer explains why your surroundings matter. From a 2009 study that tested cognitive tasks in red and blue rooms:

When people took tests in the red condition – they were surrounded by walls the color of a stop sign – they were much better at skills that required accuracy and attention to detail, such as catching spelling mistakes or keeping random numbers in short-term memory.  According to the scientists, this is because people automatically associate red with danger, which makes them more alert and aware.

The color blue, however, carried a completely different set of psychological benefits.

While people in the blue group performed worse on short-term memory tasks, they did far better on those requiring some imagination, such as coming up with creative uses for a brick or designing a children’s toy out of simple geometric shapes.  In fact, subjects in the blue condition generated twice as many “creative outputs” as subjects in the red condition. That’s right: the color of a wall doubled our imaginative power.