No psychological effect of color context in a low level vision task

Adam Pedley, Alex Wade

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: A remarkable series of recent papers have shown that colour can influence performance in cognitive tasks. In particular, they suggest that viewing a participant number printed in red ink or other red ancillary stimulus elements improves performance in tasks requiring local processing and impedes performance in tasks requiring global processing whilst the reverse is true for the colour blue. The tasks in these experiments require high level cognitive processing such as analogy solving or remote association tests and the chromatic effect on local vs. global processing is presumed to involve widespread activation of the autonomic nervous system. If this is the case, we might expect to see similar effects on all local vs. global task comparisons. To test this hypothesis, we asked whether chromatic cues also influence performance in tasks involving low level visual feature integration.
Methods: Subjects performed either local (contrast detection) or global (form detection) tasks on achromatic dynamic Glass pattern stimuli. Coloured instructions, target frames and fixation points were used to attempt to bias performance to different task types. Based on previous literature, we hypothesised that red cues would improve performance in the (local) contrast detection task but would impede performance in the (global) form detection task.
Results: A two-way, repeated measures, analysis of covariance (2×2 ANCOVA) with gender as a covariate, revealed no influence of colour on either task, F(1,29) = 0.289, p = 0.595, partial η2 = 0.002. Additional analysis revealed no significant differences in only the first attempts of the tasks or in the improvement in performance between trials.
Discussion: We conclude that motivational processes elicited by colour perception do not influence neuronal signal processing in the early visual system, in stark contrast to their putative effects on processing in higher areas - See more at:
Original languageEnglish
Article number247
Number of pages12
JournalFaculty of 1000 Research
Publication statusPublished - 22 Apr 2014

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2013 Pedley, A and Wade, AR. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Licence, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. Data associated with the article are available under the terms of the Creative Commons Zero "No Right Reserved" data waiver (CC0 1.0 Public domain dedication).

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