How Color Affects Learning
Studies have shown that the use of color can greatly impact learning and retention. There is evidence to suggest that thoughtfully designing the color of your learning courses will be time well spent. In a study by the Poynter Institute, participants were shown two newspaper pages. The pages were identical in every way except that one was presented in color and the other was in black and white. More than 98% of the participants said they preferred the more colorful page because they claimed to have read more on that page. Upon investigation, however, researchers found that the participants had not read more on the colorful page, they had simply imagined that they had because the color page gave off the illusion of having more information.
In a study done for the Journal of Experimental Psychology by Felix A. Wichmann, Lindsay T. Sharpe and Karl R. Gegenfurtner, test subjects were shown a series of photographs, half in color and the other half in black and white. They were later shown the same images mixed with new images and asked to indicate whether or not they had seen each picture. The study showed that participants were better able to remember seeing the color photographs. The same test was run using black and white, color, and false color images (where green pixels were exchanged for red and blue pixels exchanged for yellow and vice versa). The experiment showed that while color helps trigger memory, not just any color will do. The natural color images were remembered more than both the black and white and the false color images.
A study by Ravi Mehta and Juliet Zhu published in Science analyzed the effects of neutral, red and blue backgrounds on 600 participants' abilities to perform tasks. They found that those in the red group were better able to complete tasks involving detail, processes and accuracy. Those in the blue group fared better with creative, imaginative, and inventive tasks. The study showed that if you desire an end result of memorization or improved editing, you should use more red. If however, you want to encourage new ideas and creativity, choose blue.
Content is king, but if you present content with carefully chosen colors, your learners will get more out of it than if you were to present it in black and white.
Don't get too crazy with the colors, as learners will remember more of what you present if it is shown in its natural colors.
Use red to teach brain surgery and blue to stimulate the invention of new products. Want to know other ways to use colors in learning? Review last week's color article.
About the author: AJ George is IconLogic's lead Technical Writer and author of both "PowerPoint 2007: The Essentials" and "PowerPoint 2008 for the Macintosh: The Essentials." You can follow AJ on Twitter at http://twitter.com/andrayajgeorge.