Importance ofMemoryColor

Cari Denby

February 2002

Stephen F. Austin StateUniversity

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One of the most influential aspects on the quality of our lives iscolor. We use our perception ofcolor every day. Withoutcolor we could not see traffic signalsor enjoy sunsets, and learning techniques would be much moredifficult. Color is an importantfunction that signals and helps facilitate perceptual organization.Memory color is a phenomenon in which an object's characteristiccolor influences our perception of itscolor. The study of what colors willmaximize memorization skills is important for many reasons. Humanbeings rely on color to keep order inour lives. Traffic signals, warning signs, and many other signalsrequire perception of color in order tobe effective. Without the use of colorour world would become chaotic. Finding thecolors that are most effective onmemorization would increase safety and order in our lives. Also,finding the colors that best stimulatememorization could increase study skills in students, especiallythose with learning disabilities. The use of memory color could alsobe used in areas of business such as retail to optimize sales byusing colors that are most familiar topeople, and will therefore grab their attention. Furthering the studyof the effect of color on memory wouldbe beneficial in many areas.

Our lives are kept in order by numerous signs, signals, anddevices that provide instruction and precautions. We are constantlyadapting these devices in ways that will increase our awareness oftheir function. Naor (2001) found that color knowledge interacts withobject representation in many levels, depending upon the access levelthat is triggered by the stimulus. Therefore, using colors in signsand signals that are more familiar to people would increase theeffectiveness of the devices. A red STOPsign stimulates color knowledge and aids in our recognition ofthe object and it's function. Traffic lights are another example ofcolor knowledge interacting with object representation. The color redis a symbol to STOP, yellow is a symbolto SLOW, and green is a symbol toGO. Traffic signals rely completely on aperson's ability to memorize the colors and associate them withcertain functions. Other objects, or devices, also require colormemory in order to be highly effective. The color red is used inDANGER andWARNING signs. Since red is a familiarcolor associated with stop, when we see this color on warning signswe automatically stop because our color knowledge is interacting withthe objects, or signs. The same is true of yellowCAUTION signs. One problem with usingcolor knowledge for object representation is that as people get olderand are affected by presbyopia, colors begin to change because thelens becomes slightly yellowed. Lighter pastel colors begin to lookgray to these individuals. Finding bright colors that will visuallystimulate the person's memory will likely increase the safety ofelderly drivers and those around them.

Another important impact color has in our lives is on our learningprocesses. Disorders such as dyslexia are sometimes affected bycolor. According to a web page on the testing of dyslexia the 'glare'of the white paper makes it hard for some dyslexic children andadults to read the page (Dyslexia,2002 dyslexic people are unable to focus on information on plainwhite paper and, therefore, can't memorize or learn the informationfound on the paper. White paper is highly aversive which causeslearning to become aversive as well. Colored transparent filtersoften help with this problem. By simply using a filter to change thecolor of the paper dyslexic people with this 'glare' problem will nowbe able to concentrate on material found in the paper. Anotherproblem when dealing with color knowledge and memorization is colorblindness. This can also be a serious problem if not diagnosed. Usingcolored flash cards or other color related teaching methods will notbe an effective way of increasing memorization skills of color blindstudents. These methods could actually harm the child's performancein school. A shade or hue must be found that is stimulating for thisindividual. The Color Span Test is used to screen for AttentionDeficit Disorder. Johnson, Altmair, and Richman (1999) reported thatthe Color Span Test seems to be a useful measure when screeningquickly for aspects of visual and verbal memory. This test requireschildren to retain color names in sequences of increasing lengths.Familiar colors such as RED,BLUE,ORANGE, BLACK,BROWN, WHITE,YELLOW andGREEN are displayed on agray background. By using color as astimuli there is a reduced likelihood that results will be confoundedby hierarchical groupings or semantic association. Children begin todevelop color knowledge long before they begin formal education. Theimplementation of familiar colors to beginning students would,therefore, increase their ability to recognize and memorize theinformation. Kido (2000) found that the colorblue evokes high electrodermal valuesand causes excitation of the sympathetic nervous system. Perhaps theuse of this color would increase the memorization skills of studentsas well. A study by Goolsby (2001) also found that there areage-related improvements on explicit color memory. The explicit colormemory task was performed that only differed in test instructionsfrom the implicit color choice task. On the opposite end of thespectrum, as people begin to get older their memory begins to fail.However, Robinson and Cipolotti (2001) found that elderly subjectsshowed selective preservation in color naming even though they hadproblems in many other categories such as naming nouns.

Memory color is also an important part of the business world.Success in the sales related area depends on the satisfaction of thecustomer and the ability to make one product stand out more than thecompeting product. David (1999) reported that in a study conducted bythe Newspaper National Network black-and-white ads had an unaidedrecall rate of 6 percent, but the only ad using color scored 21percent. Without even realizing it the customer will use memory colorto find areas in a store that are familiar to them. According toGoldstein (2002) familiar colors are seen as being richer and alsomore saturated. The consumer's attention will be drawn to displays orsigns that appeal to their color knowledge. Many businesses alreadyuse brightly colored signs that grasp the attention of the consumerand leave and image in their mind. One example of a billboard thatuses memory color to advertise is the "THISSIGN IS READ" billboard. The reader will recognize thefamiliar color of red, and also associate the color with the wordread. Memory color will be used in this association and the sign willtherefore be easily remembered. Tavussoli found that copycat brandsacquire meaning from existing brands by using consumer recognition(Tavussoli 2001). People become familiar with certain colorsassociated with brand name items. When the same colors are used onextension brands, the recognition of color is used, and this is amajor strategy used by copycat brands. A good example of this can befound upon examining soda cans of various brands. Practically allbrands of the original cola use red cansfor packaging, for Dr.Pepper and other brands maroon is used,Sprite and it's extension brands all usethe green can. This is not because there is a mandate specifying thecolor of can that must be used with a certain product, rather it is amarketing strategy used to appeal to memory color. Businesses notonly use color to increase sales, but also to increase productivityand safety of employees. As mentioned in the preceding paragraphs,precautionary signs use familiar colors to convey warnings andprecautions when dealing with machinery and equipment. Businessesusing this type of signage should be able to reduce employee injurycausing an increase in productivity.

In conclusion,coloris a very important part of our every day life. Our use of memorycolor occurs so often we usually don't even realize it is happening.Many aspects of our lives are affected by color. Some of these areasare signs and signals that bring us safety, learning techniques thatincorporate use of memory color to increase the amount of knowledgewe retain, and also the use of color in the business industry toincrease sales, productivity, and safety. Some solutions to thebefore mentioned disorders are colored lenses for those withdyslexia, or using the Color Scan Test to screen for AttentionDeficit Disorder. Color knowledge is a very influential part of ourperceptive lives. Though a great deal of research has been conductedin this area, much more is needed.



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