The Affect of Color on High and Low Screeners

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The influence of color on both the environment and how individuals perceive it has a notable effect on productivity and mood. People possess varying abilities to filter the stimuli they encounter. Those with low screening abilities struggle to ignore overpowering stimuli, while those with high screening abilities require a significant amount of stimuli for optimal performance. Furthermore, color has an impact on mood: prolonged exposure to a red room can result in restlessness and disorientation, whereas being in a blue room encourages relaxation. This research aims to examine how three specific color schemes impact the test performance of college students.

The impact of color on our emotions and productivity is diverse. Different colors can provoke various reactions, such as excitement, stimulation, helplessness, or overwhelm (e.g., Murray & Deabler, 1957). For instance, violet may elicit feelings of sadness or fatigue, whereas red can trigger anger and tension (e.g., Levy, 1984). Imagine if the surrounding color could effectively create a sense of calm or excitement in suitable situations.

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In college, students often find themselves attending long lectures without any external stimulation. On the other hand, they also encounter highly involved tests that can make them feel overwhelmed. Sitting in a lecture hall for extended periods can make students feel tired, causing their minds to wander. As a result, they seek stimulation instead of merely listening to the professor speak.

In lecture halls, I often struggle to stay attentive to the professor as the plain surroundings tend to make my mind wander. Introducing specific colors into the lecture hall environment could potentially invigorate students and enhance their understanding of the topic being discussed by the professor. During tests in the lecture hall, students might experience excessive stimulation, in which case surrounding colors that induce a sense of calmness can aid their concentration on the task at hand.

Previous research on the impact of color on humans has been limited to presenting participants with color swatches or lights, and the findings from these studies have been inconsistent. In Levy’s study, blue was found to have a calming effect, whereas Stone and English (1998) concluded that blue surroundings can lead to feelings of depression. Levy also discovered that warm colors, like red, can evoke a sense of activity. On the other hand, Kwalleck, Woodson, Lewis, and Sales (1997) observed that red can cause feelings of dissatisfaction and confusion. Currently, there is no consensus among studies regarding the effects of color in our environment.

The color white is predominant in homes, offices, and institutions, but there has been limited research conducted on its effects. Previous studies on white stimuli primarily focused on light and not on the walls in an environment. The impact of interior color and light has been assessed by only a few researchers. In a study conducted by Gerard (1958), participants were tested under a single stimulus condition. The results showed that red promotes alertness while blue induces relaxation in individuals.

Color does not seem to impact heart rate according to a study conducted by Levy. The study involved participants viewing a screen that displayed different colors, and afterwards they completed the Profile of Mood Status (POMS) to assess their mood. Levy’s research found a connection between color and emotion, but not with productivity in tasks. Participants linked blue with sadness, green with assertiveness, and orange with anger. Furthermore, exposure to light blue resulted in individuals feeling relaxed and stimulated.

Stone and English conducted tests to investigate the impact of color on the workspace. The study found that using the color red in the environment can be advantageous for low-stimulation tasks such as entering names into a computer. This extra stimulation improved performance in less demanding jobs. Conversely, when working in blue rooms with high-demand tasks, individuals felt overwhelmed. The high-demand task involved entering similar names and addresses into the computer. Nevertheless, being in a blue room created a sense of privacy, enabling individuals to concentrate on their tasks.

In 1988, Kwalleck, Woodson, and Robbins conducted a study to investigate how red and blue colors influenced participants’ mood. During the study, participants engaged in a typing task while being in either a red or blue room. The researchers discovered that there were no notable variations in mood between the two groups. However, they did observe that individuals who were in the red room reported experiencing increased levels of anxiety and stress compared to those who were in the blue room.

A study by Kwalleck, Woodson, Lewis, and Sales (1997) investigated how color affects workers’ performance and mood. The researchers discovered that previous studies on color’s impact on individuals were limited. They also observed that people perceive colors at different rates of stimulation. Prior to the study, participants took a test to determine if they were “high” screeners or “low” screeners using Mehrabian’s Stimulus Screening Questionnaire (Kwalleck et al., 1997). This questionnaire measures differences in how individuals automatically screen and habituate to irrelevant stimuli. Low screeners struggle to effectively filter incoming sensory information.

Researchers conducted an experiment in which participants were placed in windowless rooms with controlled color and light settings. All the rooms had equal lighting but no windows. The first room was completely painted white, including the door and desk. In the second room, 75% of the wall was red while the remaining 25% was blue-green. Similarly, the third room had 75% of the wall painted red with a bottom section colored blue-green.

During the study, participants were assigned daily office tasks and had to complete an equal workload. Before starting work and at the end of each day, subjects filled out a POMS questionnaire. On the first day in the morning and on the fourth day in the afternoon, individuals took the MCT (Minnesota Clerical Test), which assesses clerical speed in various tasks. The results of this study show that people with low screening abilities performed worse when working in the red office compared to those with high screening abilities (Kwalleck et al., 1997). Conversely, individuals with high screening abilities demonstrated lower performance levels when working in the blue-green room as opposed to those with low screening abilities.

According to a study by Kwalleck et al. (1997), high screeners are not impacted by the stimulation of the color red, allowing them to effectively carry out their tasks. In contrast, low screeners experience significant distraction from this stimulus, leading to a decline in their performance. On the other hand, the calming atmosphere of the blue-green office does not provide enough arousal for high screeners to reach their optimal performance level. However, low screeners perform closer to their optimal level in this relaxed setting. The study did not provide information on the performance of high or low screeners in a white room. It is important to note that performance was not affected by color schemes until individual screening abilities were accounted for.

The correlation between arousal and performance is explained by the Yerkes Dodson principle, as stated by Kwalleck et al. (1997). According to this principle, performance increases alongside arousal until a certain threshold. Once the optimal level of arousal is reached, any further increase in arousal results in decreased performance. Tasks with higher cognitive complexity typically demand less arousal for optimal performance, as indicated by Kwalleck et al. (1997).

A study found that the color of an office can affect employees’ mood. Specifically, individuals in a red office had more negative emotions than those in a blue-green office. Furthermore, low screeners in red environments experienced higher levels of disphoria compared to high screeners. Interestingly, low screeners also felt more disphoric when surrounded by white walls as they were unable to ignore the starkness of the pigment, unlike high screeners.

The purpose of this study is to determine the optimal testing conditions for individuals with different screening abilities. We hypothesize that those with low screening abilities will perform better in the blue room, while high screeners will excel in the white control room and red room due to their need for more stimulation. In contrast, low screeners can achieve their best performance with less stimulation. Furthermore, we expect that being in the blue room will result in reduced confusion and depression for all participants.

The research will be conducted in three separate college classes, each with a unique color scheme: white, red, and blue. All students will undergo a screening test to determine if they are high or low screeners. An equal number of high and low screeners will be assigned to each room. Following this, a professor will give a lecture on a topic that has not been previously discussed in the class. After the lecture, the students will engage in an emotional assessment test within the classroom environment. Finally, they will take an exam on the subject matter presented during the lecture.

The hypothesis suggests that each room will have different effects on emotional states and test scores. In the blue room, students will feel calm, and those with lower screening test scores will perform better than those with higher scores. Conversely, in the red room, all students will feel agitated, but those with higher screening test scores will perform better academically. The white room’s stark color may negatively affect students with lower screening test scores, while those with higher scores will still perform better compared to the blue room but not as well as in the red room. Additionally, it is expected that completing the POMS questionnaire after the exam will show increased emotional levels compared to before.

The experiment will involve freshman college students who are presently enrolled in an introductory psychology class. A total of 90 students will participate, with 30 assigned to each color scheme. The experiment will occur in three separate classroom settings, each having its own distinct color scheme. The white control room is designed to replicate the appearance of a typical white classroom often seen on college campuses.

The red room will have the same design as the white room, with the only difference being its red wall color. Similarly, both the red and white rooms will be identical to the blue room, but with different wall colors. To achieve this, I will mix household paint to create a light true blue shade and a deep red shade.

Upon entering the classroom, students will be required to complete Mehrabian’s Stimulus Screening Questionnaire (Kwalleck et al., 1997). This questionnaire is composed of 40 items and utilizes a 9-point scale to assess variations in screening and habituation of perceived stimuli in the environment.

The scale for each question varies from +4 (strong agreement) to -4 (strong disagreement), with 0 indicating neutrality. A score higher than -25 indicates a high screener, while a score lower than -24 indicates a low screener. Following the lecture, we will assess the emotional state of participants in the room using the Profile of Mood States (POMS).

The paper-and-pencil test measures six mood factors, including Tension-Anxiety, Depression-Dejection, Anger-Hostility, Vigor-Activity, Fatigue-Inertia, and Confusion-Bewilderment (Kwalleck et al., 1997). Participants use a five-point scale from 0 to 4 to rate their emotions. A score of 0 signifies “not at all,” while a score of 4 indicates “extremely.” In addition, there will be a multiple choice test with 25 questions that covers the lecture material.

Participants will be informed that their involvement in the experiment will result in receiving class credit. Before the experiment commences, they will complete consent forms. Two days prior to the actual experiment, students will undertake Mehrabian’s stimulus test to establish whether they are low or high screeners. Following this, participants will endorse a document verifying that they do not have color blindness, which will be appended to their consent form. These assessments will be administered and evaluated to ensure an approximately equal distribution of high and low screeners in each testing room.

Students will enter their assigned color room and listen to a 30-minute lecture on a topic in their class. After the lecture, students in each classroom will complete the POMS questionnaire, which evaluates their emotional state and how the surrounding color affects their emotions. Once all questionnaires are submitted, the professor will hand out a 25-question multiple-choice exam related to the discussed topic. Students will have thirty minutes to finish the test before retaking the POMS questionnaire. Lastly, after submitting the final questionnaire, participants in each classroom will receive an information-filled debriefing form about the study.

I expect the study results to demonstrate that test scores will be highest for low screeners in the blue room, while high screeners will have their highest test scores in the red room. In the white room, test results will be higher for high screeners but not as high as in the red room. I anticipate that the POMS results will indicate that participants in the red room will experience the most agitation and confusion. The white room may also cause some confusion, particularly among low screeners. The blue room data will show that all participants feel the most emotional comfort in this room, despite high screeners not performing well in that setting.

These findings suggest that test taking in schools can be revolutionized. Rather than randomly selecting sections of courses, students could choose sections based on their preferred color, which they find more stimulating. By being optimally stimulated, students would be able to extract more value from lectures and focus better during their tests, regardless of their surroundings. Notably, this research has particular implications for low screeners, who struggle to filter through excessive stimuli. It reveals that traditional classrooms, typically painted in white or cream colors, hinder the learning potential of low screeners.

Kwalleck et al. (1997) discovered that high screeners perform better in environments with high levels of extraneous stimuli, while low screeners excel in low-stimulus settings. Additionally, various studies suggest that color impacts individuals differently, influencing daily tasks. To further understand these phenomena, future research should focus on children to determine if similar patterns exist among them. Furthermore, gender should be considered to investigate potential differences in high and low screeners among men and women.


  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

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