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Psychology Internal Assessment

Title:​ Role of Color in Performance attainment

Candidate Name:​ Arlene Tan
Subject and level:​ Psychology SL
Date of submission:​ 02/08/18
Word Count:​ 1482
Table of contents:
Abstract …………………………………………………………………………………………. 2
Introduction ……………………………………………………………………………………... 3
Methodology ……………………………………………………………………………………. 4
Results …………………………………………………………………………………………... 7
Discussion ……………………………………………………………………………………….. 8
Bibliography …………………………………………………………………………………… 10
Appendix ……………………………………………………………………………………….. 11

The aim of the study is to investigate the role of color, in particular red, on physiological
functioning such as performance. The method is a replicated procedure from a study done by
Elliot, A. J., Maier, M. A., Moller, A. C., Friedman, R., & Meinhardt, J. (2007)​. Participants
were given an intelligence test showing a score range of five points and a practice anagram test
prior to the actual test. The participants were divided equally based on their intelligence and then
given a real anagram test with their participant number in either red or black color. Results
showed that participants in the red condition did worse in their anagram test than participants in
the black condition. This supported Elliot et al’s (2007) and ​Shi, J., Zhang, C., & Jiang, F. (2014)
hypothesis that red affects performance negatively. The reason for this is because of the personal
schema a person can attach a color to which would unconsciously affect mental processes. The
role of color on one’s behavior and performance was identified in this experiment.

Word Count: 172

I. Introduction
Colors are phenomenons of light that enables us to differentiate objects as well associate
distinct senses to it. People’s cognition, as mental processes, can attach personal schemas and
experiences to a color (​Elliot, A. J., Maier, M. A., Moller, A. C., Friedman, R., & Meinhardt, J.
(2007)​; ​Mehta, R., & Zhu, J. (27 february 2009); Shi, J., Zhang, C., & Jiang, F. (2014))​.​ ​The
color red is often experimented on as it is often associated with danger and mistakes such as red
ink pen for marking, and warnings. Black is often times used as a control color as it is a neutral
color that is unlikely to be associated with something specific. Since there are different ways that
color may affect performance, a testing environment was chosen, as it is most commonly used by
schools, to evaluate intelligence and understanding level of students (Elliot et al., 2007; Shi et al.,
Four university professors: Elliot, Maier, Friedman, and Meinhardt (2007) conducted an
experiment to investigate the relation between color and psychological functioning, specifically
between the color red and in performance acquisition. The hypothesis formulated by these
researchers was that red impairs performance as it evokes a motivational tendency to avoid
failure that, ironically, unconsciously undermines performance. In my investigation, I will
replicate only experiment 1 out of 6. Their first experiment had participants who were native
English speakers, did not have a language disability, divided into two groups with the same
range of intelligence level, and were not red-green colorblind. Participants were informed that
they had to solve anagrams and had to do a practice and a real test both for 5 minutes. The real
test was the same as the practice but the color of participant number on the test was manipulated
in red, green, and black color condition. Participants were told to verify their number before
starting the real test so this would be when they would perceive the different colors. Results
showed that participants who viewed the color red prior to an anagram test performed worse than
those who saw green and black (Elliot et al., 2007).
Mehta and Zhu (2009) proposed a slightly different theory which is that red enhances
performance on a detail-oriented task. Black was considered neutral so it would cause no effect.
However, they support Elliot et al. (2007) by also claiming that effects occur unconsciously
(Mehta and Zhu, 2009). In addition, Shi et al (2014)​ ​experimented on the effect of red on

intellectual performance on chinese students. Although the color red has a positive connotation
in the chinese culture as compared to the west, students still associate red with teachers’
markings, which undermines the students’ performance. Shi et al (2014) results provided validity
on cross-cultural relevance and more reliability for Elliot’s (2007) claim that the color red
impairs performance (Shi et al., 2014).
Our experiment is a fragmented replication of that of Elliot, Maier, Ron Friedman, and
Meinhardt as we only did one experiment on the effect of one color for efficiency. The aim of
our experiment was to examine the influence of the color red on performance in achievement

II. Methodology
The design was independent measures to avoid order effect and demand characteristics
on their performance. A black condition was added for control testing to ensure color is primarily
affecting the results. The experiment was done in an art classroom. It was double blind testing to
prevent experimenter bias and keep confidentiality. Anagram test​1​ was taken from Elliot’s (2007)
source. The participant number was written on the anagram test with the same marker so the hue
of the color red and black were the same. Furthermore, 2B pencils were given for participants to
answer the anagram tests because ink colored pens may influence color perception during
testing. Elliot et al (2007) found insignificant difference in the results for green and black
conditions so we focused on just red against black colors. They used psat/sat scores to filter out
and balance the IQs of participants in each condition but since our participants were of a younger
age group, we gave them a more appropriate IQ test.

See Appendix I

Ethical considerations were followed, in that each participant was briefed, debriefed, and
anonymity was protected. Participants had the right to withdraw at any time, they were not
deceived in any way, there was no physical or psychological harm inflicted on the participants,
and informed consent​2​ forms were all signed.
Independent variable: The color of the participants’ number (Red & Black) on the anagram test
Dependent variable: Participants’ score/performance on the anagram test

The target population was international school students, 10 girls and 6 boys ages 12-14
years old, in the Cambridge program. Participants took an intelligence test that would ensure that
the IQ range did not vary as much and that they would all be relatively proficient in the English
language. Opportunity sampling of the students from grade 8 in SPHKV was used because it is
the easiest and most convenient way. The students were randomly and equally divided to balance
the intelligence range and ensure similar groups in the red and black color conditions so that the
results would be more reliable because color is the affecting factor.

See Appendix V

● Intelligence test​3
● Real anagram test​4
● Practice anagram test​5
● Standardized briefing instructions​6
● Standardized debriefing instructions​7
● Informed consent note
● Timer
● 2B Pencil

16 out of 20 of the participants returned the consent form. A researcher excluded from the
actual experiment, to ensure double-blind control, conducted an intelligence test two weeks prior
the real anagram test to equally randomize the students into the black and the red color condition.
Students were placed in a classroom, seated separately, and put under testing conditions while
the briefing was done. The actual purpose of the experiment was not revealed in order to avoid
demand characteristics. We handed out 2B pencils for the students to use during testing. The
practice anagram test was handed out and students were given five minutes to do it. After this
practice was done, the participants were given a real anagram test with a participant number
written on the top of the page with either black or red marker. The participants were asked to
check their participant number and then start the test to ensure that they don’t have
color-blindness. The real anagram was also timed for five minutes. The tests were collected and
marked by the researchers and the data was recorded.

See Appendix VII
See Appendix I
See Appendix II
See Appendix III
See Appendix IV

III. Results
Description of results
The effect of the color red was evaluated using mean scores and standard deviation
because of interval data was used because the effect of the color red was evaluated using
independent measures design, mean scores, and standard deviation. The means calculated from
the raw data​8​, exhibits a lower average score in the red condition (5.125) than the black condition
(8.500). The standard deviation exhibits how varied the data is and how far it falls from the
mean. The scores occur quite far from the mean since the standard deviations were quite large:
3.655 for red and 3.000 for black condition. This indicates that the students scored greater in
range, which could affect the reliability of results.

Table 1: Measurements of Standard Deviation and the mean of the two color conditions

Mean (/15) Standard Deviation

Red Condition 5.125 3.655

Black Condition 8.500 3.000

See Appendix VI

Figure 1: Mean number of correctly solved anagrams by color of participant number

IV. Discussion
The aim of this experiment was to investigate if the color red affect one’s cognitive
performance. Results showed that participants in the red color condition performed worse in the
anagram test than in control. The mean difference between the scores is 3.375 points, which
shows a considerable difference but some doubts may arise from the standard deviation value.
The results from this experiment was supportive in relation to Elliot et al’s​ ​(2007) and Shi et al’s
(2014) study exhibiting red condition performing worse than the black condition. Like Elliot’s
results, the effect of the color red also seemed to occur unconsciously. No effect of sex was seen
because each group had almost equal amount of males and females and effects appeared
The limitations to the study was the lack of an official pre testing for color-blindness
although all the participants seem to be able to differentiate the color on their papers. The art
room had other color stimuli but there was no dominant color so it would be unlikely to affect
the reliability of results. Classrooms should be limited in color stimuli. To avoid demand
characteristics, there were deception of the real aim of the experiment. The participants attended
an international school in a Cambridge program; this is hard to generalize especially because
convenient method was used so people in the target population did not have an equal chance of
being selected. Additionally, the sample size is very small and their english proficiency may

Despite some weaknesses, replications of Elliot et al’s (2007) experiment suggests that
the investigated effect of colors such as red are consistent. It can be assumed from my
experiment that our minds, when observing a color, attach a personal schema that influences our
performance. The intelligence level of the students in both color groups were strongly controlled
thus we can say that colors were, in fact, affecting the test results. The study gave quantitative
results, is replicable, and a cross-cultural evidence of the effect of the color red. In conclusion, a
red-colored stimuli inferred during testing conditions could evoke a self-stimulating “fear of
failure” schema the have negatively affected the performance of a student while neutral colors
have no effect.

V. Bibliography
Elliot, A. J., Maier, M. A., Moller, A. C., Friedman, R., & Meinhardt, J. (2007). Color
and psychological functioning: The effect of red on performance attainment. ​Journal of
Experimental Psychology: General,136​(1), 154-168. doi:10.1037/0096-3445.136.1.154

Mehta, R., & Zhu, J. (27 february 2009). Blue or red? Exploring the effect of color on
cognitive task performances. ​PsycEXTRA Dataset,​ ​323​, 1226-1229.

Shi, J., Zhang, C., & Jiang, F. (2014). Does red undermine individuals intellectual
performance? A test in China. ​International Journal of Psychology,​ ​50​(1), 81-84.

VI. Appendix

Appendix I- Real anagram test

Participant Number: ______________________

Rearrange the following letters to form a word in the English language. Print your answer
clearly. Each solution has 1 (one) correct answer only. You have 5 (five) minutes to complete
the test.

If you do not know the answer, guess. Please encircle the number of the question(s) where you

1. LOTCH __________________________
2. CIHPT __________________________
3. HMOTN __________________________
4. RNCAH __________________________
5. KEOTN __________________________
6. BHTCA __________________________
7. RCWEK __________________________
8. ULIGT __________________________
9. OTJIN __________________________
10. RFWON __________________________
11. ICHRA __________________________
12. HITEF __________________________
13. AMCTH __________________________
14. TOHUY __________________________
15. BUMTH __________________________

Appendix II- Practice anagram test

Participant Number: ______________________

Rearrange the following letters to form a word in the English language. Print your answer
clearly. Each solution has 1 (one) correct answer only. You have 5 (five) minutes to complete
this test.

If you do not know the answer, guess. Please encircle the number of the question(s) where you

1. RKCIB __________________________

2. GTHLI __________________________
3. HTIGF __________________________
4. UHNOD __________________________
5. OTCNU __________________________
6. UOHSE __________________________
7. KTCRU __________________________
8. PRGUO __________________________
9. BRCMU __________________________
10. NCIME __________________________
11. NHCUL __________________________
12. SAFLH __________________________
13. DRABN __________________________
14. TOMHU __________________________
15. PKNAR __________________________

Appendix III- Standardized briefing instructions

This experiment is testing the participants’ academic performance through an anagram
test. There is going to be a practice anagram test and a real one. The time designated for the
anagram test is five minutes. An anagram test is similar to a standardised testing and it’s
basically to reorder the jumbled words.

Appendix IV- Standardized debriefing instructions

This study is an investigation on the role of color on performance attainment. We divided
students into two groups randomly into two color conditions. The black and red color. Both
anagram test for the two conditions were identical. Since we are aiming to measure academic
performance through the anagram tests, the target participants were those who were in a
certain score range. Confidentiality of the psat scores was kept since the researchers are not
informed of individuals’ psat scores but asked the help of the school counselor to provide a list
of students that fit into our score range.
We anticipate that the students in the red condition is going to do worse because research
showed that the color red is usually associated with red ink marks, red light or stop sign which
If you feel especially concerned about confidentiality or anything else, please feel free to
email any of our researchers. Thank you for participating in this study and if you have any
further questions or would like to know the results of this experiment, please feel free to email
any of our researchers.

Appendix V- Informed consent note


Dear students & parents/legal guardians,

We are performing a psychological experiment as part of our IB Psychology Internal

Assessment (IA). We are investigating a student’s ability to decode anagrams. We would like to
ask you to participate in this experiment.

Should you consent to joining this experiment,

● All data obtained from the experiment will be kept anonymous and confidential.
● You may withdraw from the experiment or demand that your results be removed at any
● You will be given further information about the purpose of the experiment and other
details regarding the study after the experiment has been completed.
The experiment will take around 40 (forty) minutes to be completed.
Participants under 16 (sixteen) years of age must produce a signature of parental/guardian
consent in order to participate in the experiment.

By signing this consent form, I, _______________________________ (print student’s full

name), agree to the conditions laid out by the researchers. I state that I am under 16 years old
and have a valid signature of parental/guardian consent. I declare that I fully understand the
nature of this experiment, agree to participate in the experiment knowingly and willingly, and
give researchers permission to use my data as part of their experimental study.

Student’s Signature: ___________________

Date: ___________________

Parent’s /Legal Guardian’s Signature: ___________________

Date: ___________________

Appendix VI

Raw data table

Participant no. Black condition performance (/15) Red condition performance (/15)

1 13 3

2 11 9

3 5 4

4 9 13

5 6 2

6 12 3

7 5 5

8 7 2

9 N/A N/A

10 N/A N/A

Average 8.500 5.125

Appendix VII