Relationship of Colors and Reaction Times in our Daily Activities: An Experiment Investigating this Correlation


CU Boulder, Fall 2008


Kiley Bielecki-Mooney, Caitlin Ascher, Meagan Brozovich


The purpose of our investigation was to test the relationship between color of light and reaction times. We examined visual stimulus in relation to the physiology of the human brain and learned reactions to color, (green, blue, white and red). We hypothesized that red has the most obvious association as a learned stimulant, especially as a connection to stop signs and traffic lights. According to color expert and strategist Kate Smith, red stimulates energy and can increase your heartbeat, blood pressure, respiration, and pulse rate more than any other color (Smith 2008). We also looked at the difference in reaction times in dark versus light situations because we hypothesized that distractions (present in the light) also play a major role on the reaction time to color. According to The American Journal of Psychology, the reaction times vary in light and dark situations (Lemmon 1936). We tested two predictions: 1) If humans respond faster with less distraction, then their reaction times will be faster in the dark and 2) If our eyes respond to different colors at different rates then reaction times will vary with the color of light illuminated.          

            We began the experiment by testing 9 individualsÕ reaction times by randomly selecting which light would be illuminated. Then, they would press the corresponding button to that color which would then display their reaction time. We did this in a light situation as well as in a dark situation.

            The red light in the dark situation resulted in the fastest reaction time and the blue in the dark situation resulted in the slowest reaction time. Overall, reaction times were faster in the light. We reject our hypothesis that our reaction times would be aster in the dark. According to our T-test, our P-value was 0.58, which shows that there was not a significant difference in our values. We failed to reject our second hypothesis as reaction times did vary with the color illuminated.

            We expected the reaction times to be all together faster in the dark because there was less distraction. This was found to be untrue with our results and this could be the result of error. Error in this situation resulted from people not being able to see the buttons on the reaction timer, resulting in slower reaction times.

            According to the Music and Driving study on the CABLE web page, reaction times with distraction, such as music, were slower than reaction times without music (Blansit 2005). Since we have found results from other studies showing that in situations with less distractions result in faster reaction times, we choose not to fully reject our first hypothesis as in the dark there was less distraction so our error may have played a crucial role in our results. To further investigate, this experiment could lead to physiological studies on how we relate to color from past experiences.

WorksÕ Cited


Lemmon, Vernon W., and Samuel M. Geisinger. "Reaction-Time to

Retinal Stimulation under Light and Dark Adaptation." The American Journal of Psychology 1st ser. 48 (1936): 140-42.


Smith, Kate. "All About the Color Red." Sensational Color. 2008. 24

Oct. 2008 <http://>.


            Blansit, Lindsey. "Music and Driving: A Potentially Lethal Combination? An Investigation into the Influence of an Auditory Stimulus on Reaction Time." General Biology Lab I, EPOB 1230. Oct.-Nov. 2005. University of Colorado, Boulder. 29 Oct. 2008 <>.