The Affect of Color on High and Low Screeners

Color in the environment and how persons perceive can greatly affect their productivity and mood. Each person has a different abilities of being able to screen out various stimulus that is around them. Low screeners have a difficult time ignoring overpowering stimulus in their environment while high screeners need to perceive a great amount of stimulus to work to the best of their ability. Mood is affected by color, when a person is in a red room to long they can become agitated and confused. A person in a blue room is more relaxed. This study looks at the affects three different color schemes on college students ability to perform well on a test.

The way we perceive color can affect our emotions and productivity in many different ways. Certain colors can make us excited or stimulate while other colors can leave us feeling helpless or overwhelmed (e.g., Murray & Deabler, 1957). Violet can leave individuals feeling sad or fatigued while red can induce anger and tension (e.g., Levy, 1984). What if the color around us could actually help us feeling calm or excited in different appropriate circumstances.

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In college settings there are many times that students sit through hours of lectures without any outside stimulation and other times students take very involved test that can leave them feeling very out of control. Sitting in a lecture hall can make students very tired and their minds soon begin to wander so that they are stimulated instead of just watching a professor talk.

I can remember sitting in many lecture halls trying to keep focused on the professor, but the classrooms are often so plain that the mind begins to drift. If certain colors were in the environment of a lecture hall students may feel stimulated to grasp more of the subject that a professor is speaking on. When students are in a lecture hall taking a test they may be over stimulated and colors around them that are calming may help them to concentrate to the task at hand.

Previous research on color and how it affects humans has been limited to only showing participants color swatches or lights and the data has been very inconsistent from study to study. In Levy’s research blue was associated with a calming affect while Stone and English (1998) found that blue surroundings can induce depression. Levy has also found that warm colors such as red can provoke active feeling. Kwalleck, Woodson, Lewis and Sales (1997) have seen that red can cause disphoria and confusion. In current research I have not found two studies that exactly agree on the effects of color in our environment.

Most homes, offices and institutions are mainly the color white which has had little research conducted. Most of the research conducted on the white stimuli was with light and not with the walls in an environment. Few researchers have actually assessed the effects of interior color and light. Gerard (1958) tested participants in a one stimulus condition and found that red produces more alertness and blue produces more relaxed feelings for individuals.

Color in these findings does not seem to affect heart rate. Levy conducted research that had students look at a screen with different colors presented to each individual. After the exposure participants filled out the Profile of Mood Status, POMS, which asses mood status. Levy’s research connected color to emotion and not productivity in any type of task. Participants associated blue with sadness, green with assertiveness, and orange with anger. It was also seen that if the individual was exposed to light blue they had an aroused feeling of relaxation.

Stone and English among other conditions tested color in the workspace. It was found that a low stimulating task, such as typing names into a computer, can benefit from the color red in the environment. With the extra stimulation individuals performed better in their jobs that were not high demanding. When working in blue rooms with a high demand task individuals became overwhelmed. In the high demand task all of the names and addresses that needed to be put in the computer were very similar to each other. One benefit from the blue room is that individuals felt like their workspace was more private and so in turn kept on task more.

Kwalleck, Woodson and Robbins (1988) examined effects of the color red versus blue in the environment. Participants were given a typing task and asked to rate their mood while in the room. The researcher found that their was no significant differences on mood. It was found that individuals who remained in the red room experienced more anxiety and stress then participants in the blue room.

Kwalleck, Woodson, Lewis and Sales (1997) also conducted a study that concentrated on the effects of color on workers performance and mood. These researchers also came to the conclusion that many researcher have not really studied color and what it does to an individual. The researchers realized that different people perceive these colors at different rates of stimulation. Before beginning their research they gave their participant a test that would asses whether they were a “high” screener or a “low screener as determined by the Mehrabian’s Stimulus Screening Questionnaire. This questionnaire measures the individual differences in automatic screening of and habituation to irrelevant stimuli ( Kwalleck et al., 1997) Low screeners are individuals who can not screen a lot of incoming sensory information.

These researchers put different participants in rooms that had been regulated in color and light. Every room used had the same amount of light and there was not a window in the rooms. One room was painted completely white including the door and the desk. Another room was painted with red on the top 75% of the wall and blue-green on the bottom 25% of the wall was red. For the third room the top 75% of the wall was red and the bottom 25% of the wall was blue-green.

Subjects performed a variety of office task throughout the week with each person completing the same amount of work. Each worker filled out a POMS questionnaire once at the beginning of the day and once at the end of the day. The MCT, Minnesota Clerical Test, which measure clerical speed in different task was administered on the morning of the first day and the afternoon of the fourth day. The results of this study showed that workers who were low screeners performed more poorly in the red office then those who were considered high screeners (Kwalleck et al., 1997). It was also true for the reverse with high screeners performing worse in the blue-green room then low screeners.

High screeners are not affected by the arousingness of the color red so they are able to perform their duties to the best of their abilities (Kwalleck et al., 1997)). Low screeners are very distracted by the incoming stimulus to a point were their performance deteriorates. In contrast, the blue green office is very relaxing so that the high screeners are not getting enough arousal to reach their optimal level of performance. Low screeners are more near to their optimal level of performance in the relaxing blue-green room. Results for the white room were not listed for high or low screeners in performance. Performance was not effected by any of the color schemes until individual screening abilities were taken into account.

Kwalleck et al. (1997) believed that one explanation to this is the Yerkes Dodson principle. This principle proposes that arousal and performance go up together until a point. After reaching the optimal level of arousal, any increase in arousal will lead to performance decreasing. Generally more cognitively complex task require less arousal to reach an optimal performance (Kwalleck et al., 1997).

In relation on the effects of color on mood it was found that workers in the red office reported more disphoria than workers in the blue-green office. Low screeners reported more disphoria then high screeners in the rooms with a red color scheme. Low screeners also reported more disphoria in the white walled room. This was explained by that low screeners can not ignore the starkness of the white pigment while high screeners can.

The goals of this study are to find out what testing conditions are best for low screeners and high screeners. The hypothesis for this study is that low screeners will have higher test scores in the blue room then the high screeners. In the white control room and the red room the high screeners will have higher test scores because they need more stimulation in their environment for optimal performance. Low screeners need less stimulation to reach their optimal performance levels. I believe that all participants will have less confusion and depression in the blue room.

This research will involve three different college classes in three different color scheme rooms, white, red, and blue. I will have the students take a test that shows whether they are a high screener or a low screener. Equal amounts of low and high screeners will be put in each room and then be lectured to by a professor about a subject not previously covered in the class. I will then have the students fill out a test that shows what they are feeling in the classroom and then they will take a test on the subject lectured on.

I believe that a wide range in emotional state and test scores will be found in each room. In the blue room students will feel calm but the low screeners will test better than the high screeners. In the red room I believe that all students will feel more agitated but high screeners will test better in this room. In the white room I believe that the starkness of the color will affect the low screeners but high screeners will test higher, but not as high as in the red room. I believe that POMS questionnaire results will be higher after the test then before.

Participants will be freshman college students in a introductory psychology class. There will be approximately 90 students; 30 students in each color scheme. Three different classroom settings will be used for this experiment each with a different color scheme. The white control room will be a normal white classroom that most college campuses use.

The red room will have everything identical to the white room but the color of the walls will be red. Except for the color of the walls the blue room will also be identical to the red and white rooms. I will use average household paint mixed to a light true blue and a deep red. When students first enter the classroom they will take the Mehrabian’s Stimulus Screening Questionnaire (Kwalleck et al., 1997). This is a 40-item, 9-point scale instrument which measures differences in screening and habituation of stimuli that is perceived in the environment.

Responses for each question range from +4 (very strong agreement) to -4 (very strong disagreement) with a score of 0 being neutral between the two. Scores of -25 and above define a high screener while scores -24 and below denote low screeners. After the lecture the Profile Mood of status (POMS) will be used to evaluate the participants emotional status in the room.

This is a paper-and-pencil test that reveals six different mood factors: Tension-Anxiety, Depression-Dejection, Anger-Hostility, Vigor-Activity, Fatigue-Inertia, and Confusion-Bewilderment (Kwalleck et al., 1997). Participants rate their feelings on a five point scale of 0-4 which stands for “not at all” to “extremely”. I will also use a 25 question multiple choice test on the topic covered in the lecture.

Subjects will be told that they are participating in this experiment for class credit and will fill out consent forms before the experiment begins. Two days before the real experiment students will take the Mehrabian’s stimulus test that will show whether they are a low screener or a high screener. Participants will then sign a form attached to the consent form that says that to their knowledge they are not color blind. These test will be taken and scored and each room will be given approximately the same amount of high and low screeners on the testing day.

Students will entered the color room they are assigned to and listen to a 30 minute lecture from a topic in their class. After the lecture students in each classroom will be asked to fill out the POMS questionnaire that will rate their emotional status in the classroom and how the color around them is affecting their emotion. After all questionnaires are turned in the professor will pass out a 25 question multiple choice exam that is based on the earlier discussed topic. Students will be allowed thirty minutes to take the test and then once again will take the POMS questionnaire. After the last questionnaire is turned in the subjects in each classroom will be given a debriefing form with information about the study.

I would expect to see in the results of this study that the test scores will be highest for the low screeners in the blue room and the high screeners will have their highest test scores in the red room. In the white room test results will be higher for the high screeners but will not be as high as in the red room. I believe that the POMS results will show that participants in the red room will feel the most agitated and confused. The white room will have some confusion but mostly for low screeners. The blue room data will show that all participants are the most comfortable emotionally in this room even though high screeners will not test well in that environment.

With these results I believe that test taking can be taken to a whole different level in schools. Instead of taking random sections of courses students would be able to take a section that is in the color that they perceive to be more stimulating. By being stimulated to the perfect degree students would be able to get more out of lectures and be able to concentrate more on their test than what is around them. This type of research will help low screeners more than high screeners because they have a hard time sorting through all the stimuli they are presented with. Traditional classroom are usually a white or cream color and this data will show that this type of environment will hurt the learning capabilities of low screeners.

Kwalleck et al. (1997) have shown that workers that are high screeners do work better in an environment where they perceive the extraneous stimuli to be high. On the other hand they found that low screeners do better when extraneous stimuli is low. Other literature points to the fact that color affects different persons different ways, but that it does have effect on our daily duties. In the future I believe that research should be done on children to see if the same phenomena is present in them. The gender factor should also be looked out to see if men or women range differently in high and low screeners.


  1. Gerard, R. M. (1958). Differential effects if colored lights on psychophysicological functions. Journal of Applied Psychology, 43, 107-112.
  2. Kwalleck, N., Lewis, C. M., & Robbins A. S. (1988). Effects of office interior color on worker’s mood and productivity. Percept, Motor Skills, 66, 123-128.
  3. Kwalleck, N., Woodson, H., Lewis, C. M., & Sales, C. (1997). Impact of three interior color schemes on worker mood and performance relative to individual environmental sensitivity. COLOR Research and Application, 22, 121-132.
  4. Levy, B. I. (1984). Research into the psychological meaning of color. American Journal of Art Therapy, 23, 58-61.
  5. Murray, D. C, & Deabler, H. L. (1957). Color and mood tones. Journal of Applied Psychology, 41,279-283.
  6. Stone, N. J., & English, A. J. (1998). Task type, poster, and workspace color on mood, satisfaction, and performance. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 18, 175-185.


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The Affect of Color on High and Low Screeners. (2018, Jun 14). Retrieved from