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Seeing Red? How This Favorite Holiday Color Impacts Your Brain

Seeing Red? How This Favorite Holiday Color Impacts Your Brain

During the holidays, the color red is everywhere we look, from bulbs and bows to Santa's trademark threads.

What impact does this favorite holiday hue have on your brain?

For starters, studies show that the color red increases appetite (no wonder holiday goodies are so hard to resist!). Also, when people are exposed to the color red, tests show they become more cautious and attentive to detail, and memory skills improve as well.

In one study, more than 600 people were asked to perform various tasks, usually on a computer. When tasks (such as proofreading) required focus, people performed as much as 31 percent better when their computer screen had a red background.

In contrast, researchers say the color red can keep us from performing our best in situations where creativity and analytical thinking are required. For these tasks, people perform better after being exposed to the colors green and blue.

In fact, seeing red before taking an IQ test can actually lower performance. Markus Maier, author of one study, says that IQ tests require creative thinking, not worrying about mistakes. He discovered that people who saw red before an IQ test did worse in verbal and numeric parts of the test. Red has also been shown to stimulate the senses and raise the blood pressure. Still other studies show that people will actually gamble more and make riskier bets when seated under a red light.

In contrast, cooler colors like green and blue have a calming effect on our brains and bodies. People exposed to these colors not only feel calmer, they're more open to new ideas and perform better on tasks that require creativity or logical thinking.

What does this mean in a season characterized with baking and shopping? This holiday season, if you're trying to watch calories, come up with a creative gift idea, relax after a stressful day at the mall or shop within your budget, think green.

If you're making a list and checking it twice, follow Santa's lead and go for the red.