Can Color Help You Learn and Retain Information Better?

If you close your eyes right now and picture your favorite outfit, room, car, or workspace you probably will visualize each of those objects or places in specific colors. The action of recalling those objects may have been made easier because of their colors. The link between color and brain activity is a well-established scientific principle that has been studied for decades.

Now, new information regarding the areas of the brain color affects and its influence on memory retention and learning has allowed neuroscientists to greatly expand their knowledge on how color affects us. With more sensitive brain imaging technology, neuroscientists at Harvard medical school were able to redefine the areas of the brain that were initially thought to respond to colors.

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) neuroscientists were able to more accurately pinpoint the region of the brain that first acknowledges the colors of an image. From there other areas of the brain related to detecting motion, shapes, edges, and transitions also light up. This means that the effects of color on our brains is much more involved and complicated than what scientists initially thought.

So what does this mean for color and learning? In 2002, researchers discovered that test takers who took standardized pattern recognition tests performed 5 to 10 percent better when those tests were administered in color. They also had boosted and increased memory over time as long as the colors depicted could be considered “realistic”. Random colorization of objects and patterns did not seem to have any effect on memory or pattern recognition.

This means that color plays a key role in taking in information that will allow us to survive in our natural environment. As a result, these colors could be utilized in an academic setting to assist with information retention, and visual aids to increase memory over time. Not only should educators consider utilizing color coded tests and study materials, they should also consider the functional use of color in the actual learning environment. This could significantly improve a student’s ability to learn, concentrate and remember information discussed in class.

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