A group of researchers published an article in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin testing the effects of a number of colors on creativity.
The main color the researchers were interested in is GREEN.
While a lot of color research has focused on RED, and to a smaller degree BLUE, not a lot has been done on GREEN.
Green has a number of historical associations:
- Vegetation, trees, leaves, grass, etc.
Nowadays green is often associated with money due to greenbacks (US Currency) and envy.
Since green is associated with growth, the researchers thought that perhaps green could be associated with mental/psychological growth. This includes expansiveness, open-mindedness, and creativity.
Thus, they set out to see if exposure to the color green has a positive effect on creativity.
In this experiment, the researchers compared green vs. white’s effect on creativity.
The researchers got 69 participants to volunteer for the experiment.
Participants did the experiment at their computers at home.
First, the participants got a big colored rectangle in the middle of their screen with the study number on it.
- The rectangle was either WHITE or GREEN.
Then, participants did a creativity task for 2 minutes.
- To test creativity, the participants were asked to write down as many creative ways to use an object as possible within a certain time frame. In this case, the object was a tin can.
The uses had to be unusual and possible in real life.
Afterward, some raters were enlisted to rate the list of uses on whether they are uncommon, remote, and clever, generating a creativity score.
Participants who were exposed to the green rectangle were able to generate more creative uses for the item than those exposed to the white rectangle.
This experiment was the same as experiment 1, only this time they compared GREEN with GRAY.
Also, participants did the experiment in a classroom rather than at their computers at home.
35 participants were recruited for this experiment.
Once again, exposure to the green rectangle caused people to be more creative than those exposed to the gray rectangle.
This time, the experiment was done the same, only they compared GREEN with both RED and GRAY.
Red has been shown in previous research to have a negative effect on analytic performance.
The researchers assured that the hues of the various colors were the same intensity (it wasn’t a bright shade of red and a dark shade of green – all the colors were around the same brightness).
33 participants took part in this study.
Yet again, green stimulated creativity the most.
Both red and gray had similar, lower creativity scores.
The researchers did another creativity experiment, only this time they changed the colors again and used a different procedure to test creativity.
This time, the colors were GREEN, BLUE, and GRAY.
First, similar to the previous experiments, participants were exposed to a rectangle of the experimental color.
Then, they did the new creativity task.
This time, they asked to generate a list of items in four different categories. For instance, one of the categories is “Things that are round.”
Participants had 2 minutes per category.
Afterward, a bunch of raters rated their lists on creativity. Their ratings were averaged for each person.
Yet again, using a different method to measure creativity, simply being exposed to a green rectangle at the beginning of the experiment resulted in higher creativity ratings.
Blue had the lowest creativity ratings, followed by gray.
Many colors have historical and cultural meanings, but it’s a completely different thing to show that exposure to certain colors can actually change the way a person thinks.
While red and blue are both bold colors with lots of research behind them, not too much has been done on green.
In this study, the researchers simply exposed participants to a green rectangle at the beginning of the experiment, and this was enough to significantly increase participants’ creativity.
This was the case even when creativity was measured in a couple different ways.
Thus we can say that if you’re in a creative environment and you want to inspire yourself or others to be more creative, open-minded, innovative, unusual, or think outside the box, consider including green in your surroundings or your wardrobe!
Lichtenfeld, S., Elliot, A. J., Maier, M. A., & Pekrun, R. (2012). Fertile green: Green facilitates creative performance. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 38(6), 784-797. Link: https://www.psych.rochester.edu/people/elliot_andrew/assets/pdf/2012_Lichtenfeldetal_PSPB.pdf