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Search by Stephane Rusinek January 1, 2004 Does the emotional context influence the recollection of color? abstract Does the emotional context influence the recollection of color ? To answer this question, in an abstract painting with 12 colors, area was the same size, also there were four texts, each of wich concerned different emotional connotations (fear, anger, joy, and sadness) and was related to the life of an imaginary painter. Items were show each of 142 childr
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    Search by Stephane RusinekJanuary 1, 2004 Does the emotional context influence the recollection of color? abstract Does the emotional context influence the recollection of color ? To answer this question, in an abstract painting with 12 colors, area was the same size, alsothere were four texts, each of wich concerned different emotional connotations (fear, anger, joy, and sadness) and was related to the life of an imaginarypainter. Items were show each of 142 children age 12 and up, one painting associated with one of four stories. Then, they organized the colors according to thesubjective place that they thought there occupied on the painting they had just seen (the paintings were removed before the question). Our results demonstratethat the emotional context does influence the recollection of color. article Everyone has an intuitive knowledge of the relation between colors and emotions. The French language has many color-related expressions such as black asanger , red as shame , green as fear . Meerum Terwogt and Hoeksma (1995) point out that this pattern is similar in English, e.g. purple with rage or greenwith envy. Thus, it seems reasonable to think that colors have an affective positive or negative value which depends on personal as well as social factors.It is possible to study the link between colors and emotions. Meerum, Terwogt and Hoeksma (1995) developed the idea that in a homogeneous population,favorite colors will readily be associated with pleasant emotions. Although the hypothesis is justifiable, it poses problems because of the effects of favoritecolor change with age (Meerum, Terwogt & Hoeksma, 1995), gender (Silver, McCulley, Chambliss, Charles, Smith, Waddell, and Winfield, 1988; Silver & Ferrante,1995) and cultural srcin (Silver et al  ., 1988). The links between emotions and colors may be difficult to characterize given these factors. Mood could influenceperception and judgment of color. In fact, Vorsobin and Zhidkin (1980) showed that the preference for some colors such as red, orange, or yellow increases forchildren 5 to 7 years old when they are in a happy situation.Colors also can apparently influence the mood of the subject. A study by Deribere (1983) indicated that a vivid green color reduces aggressive behavior andnervous tension. Shauss (1979), studying prison inhabitants, found that a pink color in their cells decreased the aggressive behavior of the inmates. To explainthis, he refered to Gerard (1958) who observed that subjects placed in front of a red or blue light for a short time showed a signifcant decrease in bloodpressure and speed of electrodermal response, respiration, and blink reflex. All these physiological reactions may be directly related to changes in internalmood state.These ties between colors and emotions cannot be understood apart from cognitive processes that govern them. These relations affect treatment of inf ormation and memory. Thus, Bornstein (1976) has developed the idea that colors are at the root of some memory activations because they have an important place in the setting-up of a memory network. He shows that after memorization of a picture with a particular color, the presentation of this color activates the salience of the figure. During the encoding, a link is created between the two memories. Concerning encoding, Allen (1983) had showned that the name of a color and the idea of a color do not have the same representations in our memory. Therecall of the color is better than the recall of its name. This phenomenon has been explained in terms of double encoding (Paivio, 1969, 1971). It gives colors adouble status on the mnemonic levels: colors are susceptible to simultaneous verbal encoding or as image, although the visual encoding seems to be moreimportant.One observation shows that the treatments of objects and colors are not necessarily correlated. In fact, while patients with visual agnosia can memorize coloridentification, they cannot memorize objects (Wasserman, 1993).At the neuropsychological level, it has been shown that for split-brain subjects, the memory of color is located in the left hemisphere (Levy & Trevarthen,1981)   or at least that this hemisphere is more important for memory of colors. Sonnier and Dow (1985) located in this hemisphere the memory of emotion,which in relation to the memory of colors must play a key role in learning quality of an environment.Experimental evidence of color-emotion links and color-memory links exists. Moreover, it has long been known that memory and emotions interact.Organizational theories of memory take note of these ideas (Bower, 1981; Beck, 1974). Therefore, the associations of memory, colors, and emotions are worthexploring.Our research explores how emotional context affects the salience of color. We placed a colored item in four different emotional contexts. Then, we tested theway this colored item was remembered to observe the influence of emotional context. METHOD Subjects. The subjects were 68 girls and 76 boys (age 12 on the average) attending four different French junior high schools. None of the children were colorblind. They were randomly separated in four groupes of 36 children xxxx.Materials. The colored material in this research was an abstract painting, generatd by computer software created specially for this research project. Thisprogram treats color distribution as one image and makes it possible to create an abstract picture without meaning, composed of 41 color patches (9.5 cm by14 cm).The patches were not simple geometrical forms. All are different, and they do not resemble any namable outlines.   It is necessary to control the forms, because,as Wilton (1989) showed, colors can strongly affect the memorization of common geometrical shapes.Blue, red, yellow, orange, green, purple, pink, beige, gray, brown, white, and black were chosen because French children can identify and differentiate thesecolors without difficulty (Hautek_ete-Sence, 1990).In the painting, each color occupied the same surface area. We verified with judges in a neutral emotional context that no single color of the painting seemslarger in surface area than others. To control the possible effects of central or lateral position, we made random counterbalanced arrangements of the colors,producing a total of four paintings. The configuration of the patches is the same in all the paintings, but the several colors do not occupy the same patches ineach painting (Figure 1).|Insert figure 1|To place the painting in a particular emotional context (joy, sadness, fear, anger), we wrote four verbal texts. The four emotions have been chosen with   home articles by year note to authors submission editorial process editorial board  reference to Plutchik's theory (1980) because they possess certain features. According to Plutchik, joy and anger are emotions that a subject manifests in hisbehavior, while sadness and fear are more internal.Each text is a dictionary biography and relates the emotional life of an imaginary painter to the chosen emotion. All texts were written around a principalemotion, which was named only once. Each text contains several sentences, and each describes, in 150 words (in French), important moments involvingstrong emotions in the life of the imaginary artist.Each text has been tested with children of the same age as the subjects of our experiment to verify that it would be understood without difficulty and withrecognition of the intended emotion.Procedure. Subjects, in groups of 12, were tested in the classroom. A researcher announced to them that they would be subject to a memory test involving apainting and a text.Each subject received a reproduction of the painting (one of the four arrangements, randomly assigned) and after a couple of minutes, one of the four textswas read by a researcher. The researcher read the text twice, slowly, clearly and in an appropriate emotional tone. So, for each subject, just one text and onearrengement was presented.The subjects were told that they held in their hands a reproduction of a real painting in a museum of their region and that the text read to them explained thepainting.Then, we took back the paintings and the children were asked to think of the author and his work for 5 minutes.After this time, we gave them a pack of 12 cards (12 cm x 5 cm), reproducing the 12 colors present in the painting. Subjects had to classify the cards accordingto the importance they thought these had in the painting. We asked them not to classify two cards in the same rank.The children's responses were coded: the first card chosen by each child was considered to indicate the first color seen in the picture and noted 12, the second11, etc. RESULTS With regard to the position of the colors in the painting, no statistical difference was observed in the responses given by the subjects. We concluded that theplace of the colors in the painting did not have any effect on the memorization of the colors.No statistic effect of sex was discovered. This confirms results of Hautek_ete-Sence (1986), who has noted that when subjects are asked to associate colorswith emotions, a difference can be shown between responses due to age but not sex.Table 1 shows the mean obtained for each color as a function of the emotional context in which the painting was placed. Table 2 is summarizes the analysis of variance to test for the principal effect of the emotional context for each color.   Emotional context had a significant effect only for blue, orange, green and purple. We made a further examination of contrasts between the emotions for eachcolor. Following this analysis, significant results are more numerous and involve seven colors:Blue: the mean in the joy situation is the lowest (m = 4.25). The contrasts of joy vs. fear (F(1-108) = 7.09; p < .01), joy/sadness (F1-108=5.13 ; p < .05) and joy/sadness-fear-anger (F(1-108) = 7.47; p < .01) gave significant results. It seems that blue occupied a more important place in the subjects' experience of thepainting when it was experienced in a joy context.Yellow: the only significant contrast is joy-anger/sadness-fear (F(1-108) = 3.91; p < .05). The lowest averages are obtained in the joy situations (m = 4.80) andanger (m = 4.74). It seems that in joy and anger situations, the subjects remember yellow as taking a more important place than in the sadness and fearsituations.Orange: the mean for this color in the joy situation (m = 4.88) is the lowest, while in the anger situation (m = 6.85) it is the highest. The contrasts joy/fear ((f1-108) = 4.91; p < .05), joy/anger (F(1-108) = 9.80; p < .02) and joy/sadness-fear-anger (F(1-108) = 8.11; p < .01) are significant, as is the contrast anger/joy-sadness-fear (F(1-108) = 4.48; p < .05). Therefore, we can conclude that the orange color was very often associated with joy and less often with anger. If thesame subject could see the painting in the four situations, each time we asked what space is occupied by the orange color, he or she would say that this spaceis more important in the joy situation and less in the anger situation. The emotional context set by the text was important.Green: the mean for green is lowest in the fear situation (m = 5.45), and the contrast fear/joy-sadness-anger (F(1-108) = 6.51; p < .02) is significant. Moreover,the average of the responses given for green in the anger situations (m = 7.42) is the most important and the contrast anger-sadness-fear is significant too(F(1-108) = 6.30; p < .02). We conclude that in the representation of the painting the green color was ranked higher if the associated emotional context wasfear, and given a less important place if the associated emotional context was anger.Purple: for purple the contrasts sadness-fear/joy-anger (F(1-108) = 12.3; p < .01) and fear/joy (F(1-108) = 4.51; p < .05) are significant. The averages in thesadness situations (m = 4.72) and fear (m = 4.91) are lower than the averages of the joy (m = 6.80) and anger (m = 7.11) situations. It seems that in thecognitive representation of the painting made by the subjects, purple occupied less space if the associated emotional context was joy or anger, and morespace if the associated emotional context was sadness or fear.White: the lowest average for white is the one obtained in the anger situation (m = 6.28). Only the joy/anger contrast (F(1-108) = 4.35; p < .05) and anger/joy-sadness-fear contrast (F(1-108) = 4.20; p < .05) are significant. Therefore, white is seen by the subjects as occupying more space in the picture when theassociated emotional context is anger.Black: the results are the same for black as for white. The lowest average is given in the anger situation (m = 6.08). Only the contrasts anger/joy (F(1-108) =6.13; p < .02) and anger/joy-sadness-fear (F(1-108) = 4.37; p < .05) are significant. Discussion Based on the results of this experiment, our analyses tend to confirm the general hypothesis that we initially proposed: the emotional context of a painting caninfluence the salience of colors recollected by the children.We infer that this salience is established both by information from emotions and from the colors seen. The primary goal of our study was to show theexistence of this link, not to clarify the meaning or srcin of the link.Now that the evidence is in place, we can ask a number of questions. Certainly, between the presentation of information to the senses and its recollection,various cognitive processes take place. The experimental procedure that we followed does not permit us to affirm that one or another process is at the srcinof the link between emotions and colors. We can only make hypotheses.  First, we propose that the effect of the emotional context on the salience of colors in the painting is due to processes of information selection, which dependstrongly on the subject?s attention.Clearly there exists an acquired cultural tie that associates some colors to particular emotions (Hautek_ete-Sence, 1986; Meerum Terwogt & Hoeksma, 1995).In the presentation of our painting, our emotionally-toned texts may have focused the audience's attention and guided their processes of selection to favorsome colors over others.It is also possible that the interpretation of the painting does not directly depend on the selection of information or on the attention of the subject, but rather onthe encoding of information. If the visual form is to be encoded from short-term memory, these processes depend on a working memory module, whosecapacity is limited in two ways: by the number of items that it can contain and by the duration of processing (Frick, 1988; Morris, 1989). Of course, the numberof items contained and their treatment in this module depends partly on selective and attentional processes.Some colors may have received more thorough processing, creating a particular configuration among the diverse stocks of information. These configurationsmay not include emotional information because emotion is not necessarily present in the assumed processing of the memory configuration.But the observed effect of emotional context could also occur in information retrieval. As the subjects of our experience did not know beforehand what taskthey would confront, they could carry out their ranking of colors as a function of the interpretations of the painting made a posteriori  .In this case, the cognitive processes responsible for the results that we obtained would not be linked to memorization of the painting presented in someemotional context. Rather, subjects, making their sequential ranking, might ask themselves a question like: What are the colors that I would use if I wanted toexplain the message that the artist wished to put across? The cognitive processes used in this way would not, therefore, be directly linked with the material that we used, but to emotion-color links experiencedpreviously by the subject, principally as a result of cultural learning.On this point, the controversy can be resolved. If the subjects were acting this way, their responses should have been the same in our experiment as if we wereasking them to estimate the degree of relation between each of the proposed colors and emotions. Now, the degree of relation between colors and emotionshas been tested by Meerum, Terwogt and Hoeksma (1995) on 11-year- old subjects, and by Hautek_ete-Sence (1990) on subjects aged 12 (the average age of subject in our experiments). Their results are very different from the ones that we obtained.Meerum Terwogt and Hoeksma (1995) used only six of the 12 colors on our study. Therefore, we choose to consider only the study of Hautek_ete-Sence(1990), which used all our 12 colors.For example, we note that in this study, the colors most strongly associated with anger are black and gray, and the colors less associated with anger arepink, yellow and orange. For the same population, but with a different procedure, our results show that the red, the purple, the blue and the green are stronglyassociated to anger , while white, gray, black and beige are less strongly associated with anger. For each emotion that we have tested, results are different from the findings of Hautek_ete-Sence (1990). Table 3 displays these differences.These differences are explained by the tasks that the subjects were asked to complete in the two experiments. For a color to be placed in a particularemotional context is therefore quite different from judging an emotional weight for that color.In this way we can show the influence of the emotional context on the salience of seven of the colors in our study.The procedures of our experiment provide for future research, material whose significance has been tested. Our hypothesis could be verified only with materialspecially created to limit the experimental bias. Now this material exists, and it will be possible to use it in numerous different procedures.Csikszentmihalyi and Schiefele (1992) affirm that it is generally admitted that science and art are the two symbolic systems which convey knowledge. Of course, the nature of knowledge coming from these two sources is not the same. Nevertheless, in our study we find both of them inducing meaning.AcknowledgmentThe author wishes to thank Val?rie Vienne and Monique Billaut. References Allen, C. K. (1983). Short-term memory for colors and color names. Psychological Reports, 53, 579-582.Beck, A. T. (1974). The development of depression: A cognitive model. In, R. Friedman & M. Katz (Eds.), The Psychology of Depression, ContemporaryTheory and Research. Washington, DC: Windson.Bornstein, M. H. (1976). Name codes and color memory. American Journal of Psychology, 89(2), 269-279.Bower, G. H. (1981). Mood and memory. American Psychologist, 36, 129-148.
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