“I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way – things I had no words for.”
We see the world around us through an array of colors. Red apples, green grass, blue skies. The colors we see affect our impression of the things
that we are seeing, whether we know it or not. For instance, a bright red has been shown to stimulate the autonomic nervous system, creating a slight change in pulse and blood pressure. These effects occur because color is perceived, not only on the surface of the brain, but also in the limbic system, which is often referred to as the “primitive brain.” Red, given this fact as well as its cultural associations, can influence people to be more risk-averse and detail-oriented. Even blind, color-blind, and blind-folded individuals have been shown to experience different physiological sensations under different color lights.
Blue and green, conversely, have been shown to have a calming effect on individuals and to stimulate creative thinking. Certain shades of blue have even been shown to slow the heart rate. It is for this reason that “cardiac blue” is so frequently used in medical centers and hospitals. The debate about certain color improving productivity has gone on for a long time. The truth is, different colors can encourage different types of productivity: red for detail-oriented work and blue for creative work. Blue has also been shown to act as an appetite suppressant. Yellow caution signs and the like work well because yellow is an attention-getting color. Too much yellow, however, can cause headaches and irritability because it over stimulates the eyes.
Similarly, experts advise refraining from over use of color. More than six bold colors in any one piece (wallpaper, for instance) can be overwhelming and inhibit cognition.
Children are usually drawn by warm, bight colors. Using these colors in learning environments can have very positive affects. A classroom decorated in friendly colors can reduce stress, improve visual processing, increase focus and attention span, and aid brain development in visual thinking, problem solving, and creativity. In fact, color speeds up learning and retention by as much as 78% and use of bold colors (as oposed to black and white) can increase IQ by up to 12 points.
For special needs children specifically, color can be either helpful or harmful, depending on how it is used. Regular, geometric patterns can be used to stimulate the pattern seeking part of the brain and reduce visual stress (in comparison with irregular or more complicated patterns). Autistic children in particular can be overwhelmed easily by color. Researchers have found that approximately 85% of autistic children see colors with greater intensity than do their neurotypical peers. This is not to say that the learning environment of a child with an ASD (Autism spectrum disorder) should be devoid of bright colors or decoration, but rather that bold colors should be used carefully, in that setting. In fact, we have heard from several parents and instructors that children on the spectrum benefit greatly from our colored keyboards because of the color-coding.
Dyslexic children generally benefit from well-used color. A study has shown that 80% of dyslexic children showed increased understanding of read materials when displayed with a colored overlay. Color-coding by character set can help with spelling on keyboards for those with dyslexia. Those with ADD and ADHD are also helped by the use of color. Color has been shown to help with focus for these individuals as well as individuals with Down Syndrome by maintaining interest and breaking monotony.
The benefits of using more color are not limited only to children; repetition of colors has also enhanced the memory of nursing home residents and productivity across most demographics.