How does color affect memory and other cognitive functions? Plus can you use color to improve yours? The effects of color are not just limited to memory, colors can stimulate different areas of the brain to improve creativity and various other cognitive functions.

What colors are good for and affect memory?

There has been some significant study and research conducted relating to the effects of color on memory, and also how colors can be used to aid in memory. Based on the research, we will try and determine what is the best color for memory.

How Colors Improve Memory?

Certain colors help to improve concentration and focus. Improved concentration will naturally lead to improvements in learning and remembering.

Studies on the influence of color suggest blue helps with concentration. Blue calms the mind, allowing for better focus, naturally discouraging the mind from distractions. It’s a natural conclusion to assume that improved concentration can lead to improved memory, or other cognitive functions.

Blue is not the only color that can help with concentration, it would also apply to most cool and neutral colors. Environments that are comfortable, relaxing and provide little distractions will also help with concentration, and color plays a big part in achieving these environments.

Gaining Attention & Highlighting

Colors can also be used to gain attention, to make things stand out, become more prominent, which can help with noticing certain things. Therefore, making things more memorable.

Colors are often used for the purpose of highlighting certain points or mistakes. If there is a particularly important point or mistake, then highlighting that section can help to embed certain information into our memories.

Boosting Memory & Creativity

Studies conducted by the University of British Columbia looked into the effects of red and blue on cognitive ability. Blue was said to increase creative thinking. Red was better at focusing attention, naturally leading to improvements when it came to paying attention to details, and generally making us more alert.

The studies included tests that involved several hundred participants that had to perform tasks while exposed to different colors. These tasks tested various cognitive abilities, including memory, attention to detail, and tasks or questions that required creative thinking.

During the creative tasks when participants were subjected to the color blue, the participants provided significantly more creative ideas than when those tasks were undertaken while exposed to red.

Memory tasks that required attention to detail showed over a 30 percent performance improvement when the participants were exposed to the color red, compared to blue.

Negative Associations of Red

Red is often used as a warning in nature, it’s displayed as a warning of danger by some animals to scare off predators.

Red pens are used to highlight errors or under performance in some way. This use of red can create or strengthen associations between the color red and negativity, under performance and mistakes.

People tend to want to avoid this negativity. This desire to avoid seeing the color red can enhance performance, alertness and learning.  

Creating Color Associations to Improve Memory

The human mind likes to make connections and associations, and color can be used to great effect to create associations between things.

Some mail sorting companies have adopted a color code system to help with remembering, therefore sorting. Zip or postal codes are grouped together in regions. Each region can have 20 or 30 different codes, so linking and remembering all these different codes to the different regions can be difficult and time-consuming.

To help with this, the regions have been given their own color. After enough time, the individual codes will become associated with a particular color. This speeds up learning and improves accuracy due to the distinct colors used.


University of British Columbia. “Effect Of Colors: Blue Boosts Creativity, While Red Enhances Attention To Detail.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 February 2009. <>.

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