1/10/2015

Do colors influence us? What a teacher / a parent must know

An educator (either a parent or a teacher) must take into consideration several elements of the environment surrounding his child. Some of these can have a great impact on him, even though they might be harder to seize upon. I remember an episode that I saw last summer in a park. 
Two children were running down an alley (it was a race, they wanted to know who was faster). The child who won didn’t seem neither stronger nor more athletic than the one who lost. I noticed him though due to his glowing red T-shirt (for that matter, his face was also quite red at the end of the race). I then remembered an interesting experiment which showed that nothing happens by chance and that colors have a serious influence upon our lives. Hill and Barton studied the Olympics playoffs and noticed that those who were wearing the red T-shirt during the game (boxing, wrestling etc.) had 50% more wins than those wearing the blue T-shirt. Then again, the T-shirts were balloted before every confrontation. Red (the color of blood and aggressiveness) worked both as an activator for the one wearing it and as an inhibitor for the opponent. The opposite happened with blue, the color of relaxation, which also symbolizes calmness, unity and leisure.


How can we interpret the information above? A quick explanation is that if we want our little ones to be peaceful, we dress them in blue and if we want them to be combative and dynamic, we dress them in red. However, things are not that simple. Experiments of  other researchers (Kim and Tokura) showed there are also other factors involved which might shatter our initial plan. The authors asked some women to dip into a bathtub with very hot water; when they got out, they were given the possibility to choose a bath robe with a certain color (from 41 chromatic alternatives). The favored colors turned out to be the cold ones (blue, green), while the warm ones (yellow, red) were rejected. By contrast, other people who were exposed to a cold air stream for a long time, when they had to choose the color of their clothes, they picked red. Moreover, another researcher (Gueguen) noticed that people prefer to drink a refresher from a green or a blue glass, rather than a red one. The last one arises a contradiction – the beverage is cold, but the color of the glass indicates heat, thus a contradiction that displeases the consumer.

Finally, another author (Elliot, 2007) was interested in finding out the role of the color red in those circumstances when a goal is to be reached. The author started from an interesting hypothesis: red symbolizes the psychological danger of failing. Why is that? During a long period of the students’ scholar life, teachers used the color red for correcting their papers and the simple sight of “the red pen” meant the presence of several mistakes in the student’s work. There is an association between the color red and danger – for instance, the stop signs and the warning signs. Authors claim there is also a biological evidence according to which red is associated with danger.


As we can see, there are various implications regarding this subject. Nevertheless, don’t forget we are surrounded by a very colorful world where colors have a major impact on us. A good educator must act as an attentive observer: he must know how to use the force of colors and of all those elements that surround us in order to support a successful development of our children. 

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