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What color makes your brain work better?

What color makes your brain work better?

Color is all around us – from the clothes we wear, to the devices we use, to the environments we inhabit. While we may not consciously think about it, the colors that surround us can have a significant impact on our mood, emotions, and even cognitive performance. Some colors have been shown to enhance concentration, memory, creativity, and clarity, while others can have the opposite effect.

As we spend more and more time in front of screens and in built environments, carefully considering color choices can go a long way in supporting productivity, focus, and general well-being. Read on to learn about the science behind how different hues affect the brain, and what colors you should surround yourself with to give your thinking skills a boost.

The Psychology and Science of Color

The human brain processes color differently than other visual information. Color is detected by cone cells in the eye, which send signals to the visual cortex – the part of the brain responsible for processing what we see. From there, the processed color information gets distributed to other parts of the brain.

Research has shown that certain areas of the brain are especially reactive to color. These include the hypothalamus, which regulates hormones and emotions, and the amygdala, which processes memory and decision-making. This is why color can have such a pronounced impact on mood and cognitive function.

The effect of different colors has to do with how they interact with the brain on a biological level. Long wavelengths of light boost brain activity, while shorter wavelengths have a calming effect. This is part of the reason that being exposed to bright white or blue light during the day helps us feel alert, while warmer, dimmer lighting in the evening triggers melatonin release and prepares the brain for sleep.

Beyond the biological response, color also carries cultural meanings, associations, and symbolism that shape psychological reactions. For example, red means stop and danger in North American cultures, while it symbolizes luck and happiness in China. How color is contextualized also matters – blue might remind you of a calm sky, or make you feel depressed when used in a dark, gloomy way.

Color and Cognition

Many studies have looked specifically at how color exposure impacts human cognitive abilities. Color has been shown to influence everything from IQ test performance to reading comprehension to emotional intelligence.

Let’s take a look at some of the research on how different hues affect concentration, memory, creativity, and clarity.


The ability to focus and avoid distractions is key for productivity and clear thinking. Cool colors like blue and green have been shown to have a positive impact on concentration.

One study found that exposing students to the color blue during a test increased focus and improved exam scores. The theory is that because blue is associated with openness and peacefulness, it has a calming effect that enhances concentration.

Other research concluded that blue or green office décor and computer screens boosted attention spans and ability to stay on task. Avoiding too much red, which increases stimulation, also seems to support focus.


Enhancing memory with color relies on a stimulating effect to keep the brain engaged. Warm colors like red, orange, and yellow have been shown to improve recall ability and information retention.

Researchers studied how color affected memory performance in elementary school children. Kids exposed to warm-colored walls, decorations, and even book covers did better on memorization tasks than those learning in cool-colored rooms.

The energizing qualities of warm hues seem to give the brain a boost. One theory is that because red is associated with danger and attention, it puts the brain in an alert state that supports taking in and retaining information.


Flexibility, originality, and innovative thinking are key components of creativity. Cooler colors like blue and green have been linked to giving creativity a boost.

One study tested creative problem solving in over 600 participants. Those exposed to blue primes showed significantly higher ability to think flexibly and generate creative ideas compared to the control group.

The researchers concluded that because blue is associated with openness and peace, it allows the brain to make broader connections and see things from different perspectives – key for creative thinking.


Clear thinking involves focus, alertness, and precision. Just like with concentration, cooler blues and greens have been shown to have a positive effect.

A recent study had participants perform detail-oriented tasks requiring clarity while being exposed to different color wavelengths. Those in the blue light condition showed the highest level of clear thinking and detail processing accuracy.

Researchers theorize that because blue and green are calming colors, they reduce mental clutter and allow the brain to think in an unimpeded, clear manner.

Best and Worst Colors for Brain Power

Based on the science, here is a summary of the best and worst colors for brain performance:

Best Colors for the Brain

Blue Improves concentration, clarity
Green Boosts creativity, concentration
Red Increases alertness, memory
Orange Stimulates brain activity, improves memory
Yellow Boosts alertness, memory

Worst Colors for the Brain

Brown Associated with heaviness, sadness
Gray Can cause depression, low energy
Purple Can cause frustration and impatience
White Can feel stark, cause eyestrain
Black Feelings of sadness, negativity

Tips for Using Color to Enhance Brain Power

Here are some simple ways you can start harnessing the power of color for better cognitive functioning:

  • Paint your office or workspace blue or green for enhanced concentration and creativity.
  • Choose warm colors like red, orange or yellow when memorization or alertness is key.
  • Display art, decorations or images with nature blues and greens to feel peaceful but focused.
  • Add a red notebook, pen or Post-it pad when you need to remember important information.
  • Stare at or visualize a warm color like red before taking a test or doing a brain-intensive task.
  • Pick cool blue or green for digital interfaces to stay focused on screens.
  • Avoid gray, brown or purple hues if you tend to feel sad or low energy.
  • Use color strategically throughout your day for the cognitive boost you need.

The mind reacts differently to various wavelengths of light. By thoughtfully incorporating color, we can enhance anything from mood, to cognition, to productivity.

Next time you’re looking to give your thinking skills a boost, take some tips from the science and use your hues.


Color can have a powerful impact on brain performance and thinking ability. Research has shown that blue and green hues improve concentration, clarity and creativity. Warm colors like red, orange and yellow have been found to boost memory and alertness. And avoiding too much gray, brown or purple helps prevent depressive feelings and low energy.

Strategically using color in your environment, visualizations and work tools can provide a simple cognitive advantage. So take some tips from the psychology and science of color, and start using different hues to get your brain working at its best!