It’s long been known that color has powerful effects.  Red light measurably raises metabolism and increases grip strength.  Blue calms and cools.  In advertising, blue corporate logos are generally used to convey stability and trustworthiness, while red is used to convey energy and power.

A new study from the University of British Columbia now finds that blue promotes creativity and red aids attention to detail.

To test alternative explanations for the findings, Zhu’s team showed that neither red nor blue influenced mood. Test subjects also spent the same amount of time on their tasks, suggesting that neither color affected their motivation.

The colors appeared to enhance performance, but not to impair it. Red- and white-primed students had similar creativity scores, while blue- and white-primed students were equal on attention tasks.

Asked about the implications, Zhu suggested that people engaged in creative tasks surround themselves with blue, and with red when trying to focus.

An article in Wired by Brandon Keim can be found here.  The results are published in the current issue of Science:  “Blue or Red? Exploring the Effect of Color on Cognitive Task Performances.” By Ravi Mehta and Juliet Zhu. Science, Vol. 324, Issue 5915, Feb. 5, 2009.