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The Effects of Preferred vs Standard Colors on College Students’ Short Term Memory Kristen N. Williams Emporia State University Abstract Can color help enhance students’ ability to learn and better prepare for tests and with other school assignments? The participants were 15 college students at Emporia State University. I used an independent two-group design where students signed up via Blackboard. Participants had 2 min to look at the word list, either black words or color words, then another 2 min to recall what they had seen.
I was expecting to find more color words recalled than black words. However, I found no significance between colors and black words. This finding is inconsistent with the findings of Camp, Pecher, Schmidt, and Zeelenber (2009) where color did in fact affect a participant’s ability in remembering. Keywords: recall, colors, memory, word list The Effects of Preferred vs Standard Colors on College Students’ Short Term Memory The ability to obtain and store information in a short time is short-term memory. Factors can help increase the ability to retain more information.
According to Sagi (1980) “words of colors are recalled well than and at the expense of printed colors” (p. 149). Previous research by Dreschsler (1960) has suggested that different colors have different effects on individuals and can have some connection to one’s subconscious as well. According to Tait (1912), “colors may affect multiple aspects of one’s memory” (p. 1). Past research using recall-testing (Noble, 1952; Radvansky, Gibson, & McNerney, 2011; Rockway & Duncan, 1952; Watkins & LeCompte, 1991) studied how well people can retain information.

Radvansky, et al. , (2011) found that among four experiments performed, when individuals had another sense manipulated, sense of sight, the individuals were able to retain words from the word list presented to them. The best perception that increased memory retention was the aspect of colors (Radvansky, et al. , 2011) MacKinnon, Geiselman, and Woodward (1985) found that participants’ effort and their ability to retain information when paired with an interference decreased. As one progresses with age their memory may tend to fade ut some research has found an increase in memory retention when older adults performed a recall test using colors although multiple responses does tend to decrease after multiple features (Gagnon, Soulard, Brasgold, & Kreller, 2007, p. 210). Within this research, participants were in into two groups by their ages. They underwent three different conditions, the same for each group. While one test varied on one feature, like color, the second varied with color and size, while the third varied in three different features, color, size, and font.
They tested participants to see how well they were able to retain the word list, along with the other features, because of the colors, both groups had the ability to remember more from the word lists, but the older individuals were not able to remember the other features as well as the younger participants. Many have used recall tests as their form of testing in their study, whereas the others use colors within their tests to help measure how it affects the individuals memory, whether it deals with emotional ties (Tait, 1912) or to just test whether it affects one’s ability in remembering (Camp, Pecher, Schmidt, & Zeelenber, 2009).
The primary goal of my research was to see if participants would memorize a higher percentage of words in color than in black. I believe that this experiment could help students better their studying, may help students remember words for a test, or quiz, and possibly use color to help transfer items from short-term memory, to long-term. Method Participants Participants in this study were 15 college students enrolled in undergraduate psychology courses in the spring of 2012 at Emporia State University. Participants possibly earned course credit for their participation, but their instructors will make other alternatives available.
I obtained my participants via sign-up online through Black Board. Materials The following words were on a power point slide (Appendix A; Chair, Moon, Tape, Armadillo, Kitchen, Glue, Phone, Newt, Notebook, Cookie, Ring, Flower, Couch, Blanket, Fire, Sand, Lion, Bully, Window, & Hair). The recall survey (Appendix B) contained a number list for participants to fill out, along with a short demographic form (e. g. gender). Design and Procedure I obtained an ESU IRB approval (Appendix C) prior to conducting any procedures of the independent two-group design experiment.
When the participants signed up for the study I assigned them to either Group Black Words (views word list in black and white) or Group Colored Words (views same word list, except in different colors). I gave and read the informed consent form (Appendix D) to the participants as they read along. They had 2 min to memorize the words. After that, participants had another 2 min to recall the words onto their surveys. After time was up, I debriefed them (Appendix E). Results The independent variable was color of words (Black, Colors) and the dependent variable was participants’ percentage of recalled words.
I included total of all words recalled in color. I determined the mean and standard deviation for each group’s recall percentage (see Figure 1). I performed a t test for independent samples to compare the group means, Black words (M = 98, SD = 3. 4) and Color words (M = 37, SD = 2. 3). However, there was not a significant difference between the means of black words and color words. Discussion The present experiment was designed to assess the effects of colored words on memory. I did not find a significant difference between words in black, and words in colors.
This experiment was different from past research. For example, Sagi (1980) looked at the recall of colors and the ability to remember those colors versus printed colors, whereas this experiment looked at how colors affect an individual’s memory in recalling a simple list of words. Also, Tait (1912) looked at how colors that are repeated can increase an individual’s ability to remember, where I searched to find if color could do the same thing except with words. The findings I had received were different from the other researches, in terms of not finding any significant effect.
There were hopes in finding a connection to color, by means of memorization because Dreschsler (1960) found that individual’s were giving more emotional responses to colors rather than neutral, plain colors. That which showed it affected the individual and because of this association, I had hoped through this research I could find that aspect and show that color could also help individuals in terms of memorizing a list of words. MacKinnon, Geiselman, & Woodward (1985) found that individuals who looked over the words twice as long as the control group, they had recalled more of the word list.
The reason this experiment had a different result is because they changed the length of time, whereas I changed the colors, which would explain why they found an increase in successful recall. The possible problem I could have encountered that caused an insignificant affect was that the word list could have been too simple for the college students. I had used such simple words so it could transfer to any age group, to make an easier generalization or another problem could have been the number of words, 20.
Although I did not find a significant effect, I did show the great amount of words a college student can retain in their short-term memory. Just like in past research done by Gagnon, Soulard, Brasgold, & Kreller (2007), who found that as one increases in age, their memory and attention decreases, but much younger, college age, can remember and recall better, and faster. This experiment is still of worth, although there was no significant affect, in terms of finding a way for individuals to better learn in school, and help with studying habits.
It has opened doors to new ideas to better students, whether they are in elementary, or college. The next step to take is to increase the group sizes, and choose a greater variety of colors and more complex words, but not overly complex, because it still needs to be easily generalized to other individuals. If a significant affect is discovered then the aspects of favorite colors can be researched in hopes of finding ways for students to better themselves in school. References Camp, G. , Pecher, D. , Schmidt, H. G. , & Zeelenberg, R. (2009).
Are independent probes truly independent? Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 35(4), 934-942. Drechsler, R. J. (1960). Affect-simulating effects of colors. The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 61(3), 323-328. Gagnon, S. , Soulard, K. , Brasgold, M. , & Kreller, J. (2007). Effects of normal aging on memory for multiple contextual features. Brain and Cognition, 64(3), 208-216. MacKinnon, D. P. , Geiselman, R. E. , & Woodward, J. A. (1985). The effects of effort on stroop interference. Acta Psychologica, 58(3), 225-235. Noble, C. E. (1952).
The role of stimulus meaning (r) in serial verbal learning. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 43(6), 437-446. Radvansky, G. A. , Gibson, B. S. , & McNerney, M. W. (2011). Synesthesia and memory: Color congruency, von restorff, and false memory effects. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 37(1), 219-229. Rockway, M. , & Duncan, C. P. (1952). Pre-recall warming-up in verbal retention. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 43(4), 305-312. Sagi, A. (1980). Color-word interference in a recall test. Journal of General Psychology, 103(1), 149-154.
Tait, W. D. (1912). A short study in dislike. The Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 7(1), 1-4. Watkins, M. J. , & LeCompte, D. C. (1991). Inadequacy of recall as a basis for frequency knowledge. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 17(6), 1161-1176. Appendix A Word Recall PowerPoint Slide Appendix B Survey Appendix C ESU IRB Approval Letter Appendix D Informed Consent Form Appendix E Debriefing Statement [pic] Figure 1. Mean recall scores for participants who either saw black words (n = 7) or color words (n = 8). Error bars show standard deviations.

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