The crucial role of colour

News

  Posted by: The Probe      18th April 2020

Colours play a vital role in the world around us. In a way, they have formed their own language over time, and the associations we attribute to various hues have become a universal way to communicate certain intentions.

For example, when people see a red light, they will inevitably think this is a signal that means stop, and there are hundreds of examples of how colours are used this way in our society. But can colours help people learn new information or memorise essential protocols? And, how can we apply this to dentistry?

Why do colours have meanings?

If you think of a certain colour it’s likely that you will instantly attach certain emotions, places, ideas or constructs to it. Blue may make you think of sadness or the sea, whereas red can make you think of danger, love, blood, passion. There are lots of different interpretations behind each colour, and many of these stem from nature or certain ideas put in place centuries ago. Green will inevitably conjure images of trees and nature because this is the predominant colour of these organisms, whereas pink is a colour you’ll probably attach to women and femininity because this is an association we are encouraged to make even in early childhood.

This is important, as these meanings inevitably impact us on a daily basis, and there is some evidence to suggest that these associations and ideas can alter the way we learn and remember information as well.

Colours and learning

There is solid evidence to suggest that colours can help the learning process due to the associations and ideas behind them that are already in place. As colours can impact our mood and evoke certain emotions, people have argued that by utilising these instinctual reactions people can apply this to the information learning process and aid it in certain ways.

For example, there is some argument to be made that certain colours being used to highlight information can help stimulate people’s minds to better retain whatever is being presented. The belief is that bright, exciting colours such as reds, yellows and oranges are better at highlighting essential facts as they draw attention more efficiently, and that calming colours such as blue can help heighten things such as reading comprehension.[i]

Another source suggests that certain colours can improve mental processes and attitudes such as concentration, critical thinking and productivity.[ii] However, this mode of thinking is most persuasive when you consider these could be boosted by the perceptions that people have already attached to colours. A study that explored this came to the conclusion that memory recall and colour could be linked and that people could influence how well they performed on memory-related exercises when colours were involved. However, these had to be specific colours that already had certain perceptions attached and which couldn’t be changed throughout the study.[iii] As such, it’s safe to say that colour can help improve learning for everyone, but that the choice of colour may be different for everyone depending on their age, experiences and memories.

This could be why colour is already used within traditional learning methods. Using bright colours to highlight specific pieces of text is a common practice among those trying to memorise texts, and in some branches of education such as law studies, students are encouraged to colour code any annotations they make, following a system that allows them to identify whether information is a fact, general law, a case holding etc. This means that they can use this colour code to instantly process the type of information at a glance.[iv] So, can we apply the same idea to healthcare?

Colours in practice

In some ways, colours have already been implemented to help dental professionals remember certain key information. For example, the Department of Health’s colour code for best practice waste disposal already segregates waste streams under different hues in order to make it easier to recall what items fall under each umbrella.

However, you can make this information even more easy to remember with the help of Initial Medical. Initial Medical has created special Colour Code Character posters which can be downloaded for free and attribute a character to each waste stream. These characters not only make use of the existing colour code, but supplement this with fun personalities and visual indicators that take into account other visual associations (e.g. Dental Diana who represents the dental waste stream is white, has a toothy smile and holds a toothbrush). By combining colour and existing associations, these posters are sure to help the information stick in people’s minds, making it easier than ever to ensure that staff don’t make mistakes when disposing of waste in the future.

Keep colours at the forefront

As colours have an impressive influence on learning capabilities and memory recall, it’s a good idea to take advantage, especially if it can aid waste disposal protocols. This way you can help staff to remain compliant, which in turn will help keep our natural environments and people safe by ensuring waste ends up where it belongs.

 

For further information please visit www.initial.co.uk/medical or Tel: 0870 850 4045

 

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About Initial Medical

Initial Medical is an expert in healthcare waste management, providing a complete collection, disposal and recycling service for hazardous and non-hazardous waste and offensive waste produced by healthcare providers, and other businesses and organisations within the UK.

The safe management of healthcare waste is vital to ensure your activities are not a risk to human health.  Initial Medical’s healthcare waste services ensure that all of your waste is stringently handled in compliance with legislation and in accordance with Safe Management of Healthcare Waste best practice guidelines, providing you with the peace of mind that you are adhering to current legislation.

For further information please visit www.initial.co.uk/medical or Tel: 0870 850 4045

 

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[i] AOP. What Colours Help Children Learn? Link: https://www.aop.com/blog/what-colors-help-children-learn [Last accessed December 19].

[ii] Shift! Disruptive E-Learning. The Psychology of Colour: How Do Colours Influence Learning. Link:  https://www.shiftelearning.com/blog/how-do-colors-influence-learning

[Last accessed December 19].

[iii] Dzulkifli, M., Mastafar, M. The Influence of Colour on Memory Performance: A Review. Malays J Med Sci. 2013 Mar; 20(2): 3–9.

[iv] Fast Company. How Colour-Coded Notes Make You A More Efficient Thinker. Link: https://www.fastcompany.com/3009605/how-color-coded-notes-make-you-a-more-efficient-thinker [Last accessed December 19].


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