How Does Color Affect Memory?

Human brain in different colors representing memory centers

Good memory is essential for independent living, staying focused, completing tasks, and getting good grades. Research has now proven the link between the use of colors and improving memory.

Art therapy uses colors that stimulate the limbic area of the brain, which deals with retention. In a book called Improving Memory Through Creativity, author Amanda Pike talks of a study on 91 older adults from different countries who were administered art therapy for 10 weeks. At the end of the study, the experimental group reported improved cognitive skills compared to the control group.

Here are some more studies that show us how color impacts memory retention and learning:

  • In a book titled ADHD and LD: Classroom Strategies at Your Fingertips, author Sandra Rief recommends using color for teaching math to ADHD students. She believes that the use of color helps improve retention and grabs the child’s attention. Ms. Rief also recommends color highlighting to avoid careless mistakes in math.
  • In The Encyclopedia of Memory and Memory Disorders by Carol Turkington and Joseph Harris, the authors state that intensely visualizing colors can help in the development of visual memory.
  • Inna Segal states in her book The Secret Language of Colors that certain colors like Lemon and Mauve can actually improve your memory and ability to concentrate. Lemon, she says, is a color of warmth and intellect; it fuels the brain to help you make decisions and also improves the ability to concentrate. Mauve creates peace and tranquility, reduces imbalances in the eyes and ears, and boosts brain power and memory.

Colors and Their Meanings

Woman painted in many bright colors

Since color impacts memory, it is helpful to know what some of the different colors mean and symbolize. Colors are associated with emotions and can have a specific effect on people.

  • Red – Passion, anger, danger, vigor
  • Green – Money, eco-friendly, peace, jealousy, envy, fertility, healing
  • Blue – Peace, cool/cold, knowledge, trust
  • Black – Mourning, death, evil, negativity, elegance
  • Purple – Spirituality, wisdom, intelligence, royalty
  • Yellow – Clarity, energy, freshness, optimism
  • Pink – Girly, feminine, playful, romantic
  • Orange – Warmth, joy, balance, freedom, expression, success

Which Colors Boost Memory?

Learning text on color bubble

According to a study at the University of British Columbia, certain colors can help with concentration and attention span, facilitating memory retention and learning. The study concluded that red and blue colors are the best for enhancing cognitive skills and improving brain function. Red was much better than blue as far as detail-oriented tasks and memory retention were concerned, by as much as 31%.

The researchers also concluded that when the teacher’s pen was red, symbolizing a stop sign and danger, it helped students avoid mistakes. Students invariably tended to pay careful attention to avoid wrong answers since red heightened their attention and made them more vigilant.

Tips for Using Colors to Study

Here are some tips on how you can use colors to study well and boost your memory.

Use Highlighters/Crayons

Girl studying and using green highlighter pen on notes

Highlighters help mark text in books so you can quickly read the important points. They are perfect to use with typed notes. Make use of fine-tipped pens and smudge-proof products.

Get an Overview of All Your Colors

When using different colors to study, make a side-by-side representation of the colors you have on hand. This will give you an idea of how the color looks on paper, and you can then choose the one you like the best, which is most intense and pigmented. Select bold colors based on the color of the text.

Use Color Theory

Color theory can help you color code your studies. A basic principle of color theory is that opposite colors on the color wheel create the strongest contrast. Thus, you can use orange and blue, red and green, or yellow and purple to highlight complex notes.

Restrict the Use of Colors to a Couple

Color pencils and symbols for studying in the background

Do not use more than two colors when studying complex notes. Two colors with your main text color, like black or blue, are enough to highlight important notes.

Assign Chosen Colors to Reference Information

For example, you can assign yellow to definitions and red to articles, formulae, sub-topics, etc. The key is to use colors that can help you easily find all the information on one page.

Do Not Overdo Things

Avoid overdoing colors. Too many different colors will simply overwhelm your brain.

We hope these tips help you use colors to enhance your memory.