RESEARCH SUMMARY DETAIL

Psychological and Physiological Effects of Color in Offices

Author's Title: Color, Arousal, and Performance—A Comparison of Three Experiments
Author(s) Name: Rikard Küller, Byron Mikellides, and Jan Janssens
Year of Publication: 2009
Search Related Keywords: Cognition/Perception  Color  Environmental Control  Office  Productivity and Performance 

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Design Issue
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Three experiments investigated the effect of a variety of color conditions (i.e., gray, multi-colored, red, and blue) on arousal, mood, and performance in office environments.


  • Previous research has indicated that interior colors have psychological and physiological effects on individuals. However, most of these studies employed color chips, slides, or colored light to study the impact of color. Implications derived from studies employing full-scale painted or decorated rooms may be more applicable.
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Design Criteria
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Author Identified:
  • Recognize that blue office interiors may be less arousing than red interiors.
  • Utilize warm colors to increase arousal levels in spaces that may otherwise be considered boring; however, avoid excessive color application.
  • Recognize that introverts may be more affected by strong colors and patterns than extroverts, potentially affecting their work performance.

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Key Concepts
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  • Strong colors, especially red, were more arousing than blue, at times causing a slower heart rate. Introverts and those in a bad mood were more affected by strong colors, which affected their task performance.
  • In experiment 1, subjects perceived greater complexity and less unity in the room as the chromaticity of the room colors increased. In experiments 2 and 3 there were conflicting results on the effect of chromacity on subjects’ perceptions, indicating other design features may have been important to the perceived environment.
  • In experiment 1, feelings of emotional control were stronger in the gray room than in the colorful room, indicating that the colorful room was more arousing than the gray one.
  • Based on analysis of the brain activity from experiments 1 and 2, colorful interiors appeared to be more arousing than red interiors which appeared to be more arousing than blue and gray interiors.
  • In experiments 1 and 2, the most introverted subjects had a slowing of heart rate by as much as 10%, which may be explained by research that suggests that introverts are more likely to be aroused by external stimulation (Eysenck, 1967).
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Research Method
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  • In experiment 1, subjects (12; high school and university students; 6 male; 17-28 years of age) spent 3.5 hours (3 hours for the experiment; ½ hour for instruction and preparation) on three different days one week apart in three different rooms. experimental office environments (3) were set up in a laboratory. Rooms were identical with the exception of color scheme (multi-color, gray, and yellow). The yellow room was used as a practice room. subjects completed a session in the practice room before completing sessions in the other two rooms. During the sessions, subjects were left alone to complete various tasks two or three times, allowing numerous measurements to be taken. The Semantic Environmental Description (SMB) form (Küller, 1979, 1991) was used to measure perceptions of the environment. Sixteen 7-point scales, simplified into four main factors (activation, orientation, evaluation, and control), were used to assess mood. EEG and EKG measurements were taken with electrodes to indicate physiological drowsiness and arousal. interviews were conducted on a different occasion to address potentially confounding factors (i.e., visual acuity, color vision, medical conditions, and personality).
  • In experiment 2, subjects (25; architecture students; 8 male; 20-31 years of age) spent 2.5 hours (2 hours for the experiment; ½ hour for instruction and prep) at two different times in a two week period in two different rooms. Rooms were identical with the exception of color scheme (red and blue). During the sessions, subjects were left alone and asked to complete a writing task, which was used to assess performance. Environmental perceptions, mood, and physiological drowsiness and arousal were assessed the same way as in experiment 1.
  • In experiment 3, subjects (40; range of occupations; 21-62 years of age; 20 males) spent 3.5 hours (3 hours for the experiment; ½ hour for instruction and prep) on three different days one week apart in rooms with three different color-schemes (red, blue, and yellow). experimental office environments (3) were set up in a laboratory. Rooms were identical with the exception of color scheme. The yellow room was used for pilot study participants (20 university students; 8 male; 21-54 years old). During the experiment, subjects were left alone and asked to either proofread and correct spelling errors (performance task) or write an essay of their choosing (creative task). Tasks were completed on a 15” black and white computer screen. subjects assessed the perceived qualities of the rooms and their mood five minutes before and 10 minutes after the task. Mood was assessed using a scale developed based on the scales used in experiment 1 and 2 and environmental perceptions were assessed with the same scale as the previous experiments.
  • descriptive statistics and ANOVA were used to analyze the data.
     
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Limitations
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  • The author did not identify any limitations.
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Commentary
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Additional measurements taken in the experiments were reported elsewhere. Future research investigating why some people are more affected by color than others; assessing perceptions of existing work environments through photographs and computer simulation; examining the long-term effect of environmental factors (color, light, heat, noise); supplementing results of field studies with laboratory experiments; and investigating the effects of color on people from other countries was recommended. Images of some rooms and graphs of results were included.



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Adapted From
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Author(s): Rikard Küller, Environmental Psychology Unit, School of Architecture and Built Environment, Lund Institute of Technology, Sweden; Byron Mikellides, Environmental Psychology Unit, School of Architecture, Oxford Brookes University, United Kingdom; and Jan Janssens, Environmental Psychology Unit, School of Architecture and Built Environment, Lund Institute of Technology
Article Title: Color, Arousal, and Performance—A Comparison of Three Experiments
Publisher: Wiley
Publication: Color Research and Application
Publication Type: Refereed Journal
Date of Publication: 2009
ISSN: 0361-2317
Volume: 34
Issue: 2
Pages: 141-152