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Color Me Creative: Study Says Green Sparks Inventiveness

The Huffington Post  |  By Posted: 04/ 3/2012 7:22 am Updated: 04/ 3/2012 7:26 am

Writer’s block? In a static slump? Think green.

Yup, Kermit's favorite color may actually get our creative juices flowing, according to a recent study.

The study, published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, asked 69 men and women to take two minutes to come up with as many uses for a tin can as they could. Before the time started, half the group was shown a white rectangle, and the other half a green one. After the two minutes, a trained coder rated each idea for its creativity. The findings? Participants who saw green before the test came up with the more interesting, imaginative answers.

The study volunteers were also presented with other creativity challenges, where a flash of green was pitted against flashes of red, blue or grey. “The green effect,” as the German researchers dubbed it, again produced the most creative responses.

Why is our creativity sparked by green? Study author Dr. Stephanie Lichtenfeld, an assistant professor of psychology at Ludwig-Maximilians-University in Munich, told MSNBC that the reason behind the creativity hike may be that green is a signal of growth (both physical and psychological). Lichtenfeld says, "Green may serve as a cue that evokes the motivation to strive for improvement and task mastery, which in turn may facilitate growth."

But the findings aren't a green light to frantically start painting your whole house shades of emerald and lime. The color's power is subtle, Lichtendfeld told MSNBC, and exactly how effective it is remains inconclusive.

Still tempted to give it a try? Look for colors similar to a pine tree, as the green used in the experiment was similar to the color we see in nature.

If green sparks our creative side, how do other colors affect us? We took a look at the data and also spoke to Linda Holt, color expert and interior designer, for her best color insight. Scroll through the slideshow to discover how you could be subconsciously influenced by the hues around you. How do different colors make you feel?

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  • Red

    There are strategic times to take advantage of red -- and times when it's a no go. SATs in an hour? Avoid. Night on the town? Enjoy. Red can have both negative and positive effects -- it really depends on the context. <a href="http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/xge/136/1/154/" target="_hplink">A 2007 study</a> found that red can hurt exam scores because the color is associated with <a href="http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/xge/136/1/154/" target="_hplink">a fear of failure.</a> <a href="http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2009-02/uobc-cbb020409.php" target="_hplink">Julia Zhu, lead author on a different color study, </a>says we associate red with danger because of the way we interact with it in our environment: the brash hue commonly appears in stop signs, emergency vehicles and teachers' corrective pens. On the flip side,<a href="http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v437/n7063/full/nature04306.html" target="_hplink"> a 2005 British study linked the color red</a> to success and dominance. Those researchers analyzed the 2004 Olympic games to find that more sports matches were won by teams that wore red outfits than those that wore blue ones. Finally, perhaps unsurprisingly, red may have a va-va-voom factor: <a href="http://www.rochester.edu/news/show.php?id=3268" target="_hplink">In a 2008 study</a>, men found ladies in red to be more attractive than those in other colors. Color expert <a href="http://www.lindaholtinteriors.com/" target="_hplink">Linda Holt </a> puts up a (figurative) yellow light when considering whether or not to paint a room red. "Red has been proven to increase respiration and heart rate, so red is a very a dynamic color," she says. A red room can come with a great deal of intensity and energy, and it may not be best for a relaxing bedroom, she says. She mentions that many restaurants are red because the management wants us "to eat a lot and get out." Rude, smart or both? Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/franklin_hunting/" target="_hplink">franklin_hunting</a>

  • Yellow

    Yellow, just like you thought, might be a a mood-lifter -- who can't smile at a vase full of sunflowers? <a href="http://www.sciencemag.org/content/323/5918/1226.short" target="_hplink"> A 2007 experiment</a> analyzed how people behaved at cocktail parties hosted in three different colored rooms ( yellow, red and blue). The party-goers in the yellow room were more lively and talkative compared with those in the other colored rooms. Holt <a href="http://www.lindaholtinteriors.com/" target="_hplink">suggests choosing yellow for your office</a>, as it may help to improve focus and concentration. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/27089744@N02/" target="_hplink">Mrs B22</a></em>

  • Blue

    In that <a href="http://www.sciencemag.org/content/323/5918/1226.short" target="_hplink">same colored-cocktail room study</a>, those who partied in the blue room stayed the longest. The reason may be that blue makes us comfortable. Holt suggests blue for bedroom walls: it has a soothing effect and certain shades decrease our heart rate (she says many spas use blue for that reason). Blue, like green, may also get the creative juices flowing. <a href="http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2009-02/uobc-cbb020409.php" target="_hplink">According to one study,</a> this color boosts our ability to think out of the box. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/aidanmorgan/" target="_hplink">John-Morgan</a></em>

  • Pink

    Think pink and what, exactly, <em>do</em> you think? This hue has a reputation for being girly, fun and maybe even innocent. And in one study, the color lived up to its sweet reputation: <a href="http://www.orthomolecular.org/library/jom/1988/pdf/1988-v03n04-p202.pdf" target="_hplink">Research done in the late 70s by Dr. Alexander Schauss</a> found prison inmates to be less hostile when they were in a pink room. In the experiment, a particular shade of pink, called Baker Miller Pink (think classic bubblegum) coated the walls, and the inmates were apparently less abrasive. Does that mean bubble-gum pink will be busting crime anytime soon? Unfortunately, Holt busts this research, noting that the inmates were calmer for about 10 minutes, likely because of the shock they experienced from the unconventional cell interior. "Once the shock value wore off, [the inmates] went right back to being violent and disobedient people," <a href="http://www.lindaholtinteriors.com/" target="_hplink">she says. </a> <a href="http://www.lindaholtinteriors.com/" target="_hplink">Holt</a> continues that pink is just a softer version of red (a stimulating color). If you're looking for a calming color, blue or green is the way to go. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/zappowbang/7023638715/in/photostream" target="_hplink">zappowbang</a></em>

  • White

    Much has been said about white: it's been linked to authority, sterility, spaciousness, purity and more. But what about ... nausea? <a href="http://jrscience.wcp.muohio.edu/nsfall99/labpacketArticles/Final1.HowColorAffectsMoo.html" target="_hplink">A 1999 study</a> </a>found that workers in white offices complained of more headaches and feelings of nausea than those in blue or red offices. <a href="http://www.lindaholtinteriors.com/" target="_hplink">Holt concurs, </a>suggesting that white causes eye fatigue and ill feelings. "Your eye needs to be able to get a break from the glare of white ... even a cream is a better than a bright white," she notes. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/aidanmorgan/" target="_hplink">John-Morgan</a></em>

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