Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2018

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors



First Advisor

Tim Curran

Second Advisor

Heidi Day

Third Advisor

Alison Vigers


Color has been shown to have a beneficial effect on memory in the general population and in some clinical populations, such as those with dementia and autism. Many factors within the effect of color on memory have been tested, however the differences among colors has been largely ignored. This study aimed to close this gap by comparing the effects of red, blue, and black on recognition memory. In addition, this study was designed in a way that could help test one of the main theories on how color enhances memory, the attention and arousal theory. This theory posits that the effect of color is due to increased attention and arousal, and would predict a larger beneficial effect when using red due to higher amounts of attention and arousal. The experiment included 48 male and female participants, who viewed object pictures in luminance-matched red, blue, and black. The participants were later tested on their memory for the objects in a recognition memory test. Results indicated that participants had significantly higher accuracy for red objects than for blue objects, and also had a more conservative response bias for red objects than for blue or black objects. These results indicate that there is a difference in the effect on memory depending on the color. The results also supported the theory of attention and arousal, providing further understanding on how this process works. This knowledge can help researchers and clinicians by enabling them to take better advantage of the effect of color on memory.