The Psychology of Red

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Caroline Carrier
Argument Draft
English 101
November 17, 2011

This paper concentrates on the effects of grading techniques specifically dealing with red ink in result to student’s grades and alternative solutions to the problem. While some scholars have addressed the basic color psychology of red (Valdez), others in particular assess red ink’s effect on student’s grades (Rutchick, “Seeing Red”). Selective scholars have evaluated alternative grading methods without red ink (Brooks, DuVal). Although this issue has been addressed in the past, there is a lack of research on this topic to implement an active solution in school systems. Since traditional red ink grading negatively affects students emotions and consequently their grades, alternative methods such as holistic grading and new grading colors needs to be investigated in order to benefit student learning abilities. In this paper, I will assess and compare these bodies of literature to support the effects of red ink on student’s grades and give examples of solutions to eliminate the use of red ink for grading. Generally the color red evokes many tense emotions as studied in psychology, which directly effects students reactions to their corrected papers. In “The Effects of Color and Emotions” Patricia Valez analyzes from a psychological perspective the perception of red and what emotions it stimulates in people. “It is noteworthy that higher state-anxiety scores were associated with red than any other color because anxiety involves displeasure and high arousal” (Valez). This supports why the color red causes students to worry and do inadequately in their schoolwork because it is closely associated with anxiety and arousal, making students unable to concentrate. “Studies have motivated that the hypothesis of long-wavelength colors, such as red, are more arousing, exciting and stimulating” (Velaz). These reactions of “arousing,” “exciting” and “stimulating” energize a person and can even increase their heart rate, causing the person to become easily distracted and absentminded of their work, which is not the optimum state for students. Andrew Elliot of the Journal of Experimental Psychology writes “Red impairs performance in such contexts of that red is associated with danger, specifically, the psychological danger of failure.” The effects of red are most accurately described in a cycle of first seeing red that makes the person think of danger. It then triggers their fear of failure. “Most specifically and directly, the repeated pairing of red with mistakes and failures that is encountered by most children in the educational system teaches them to associate red with failure in achievement contexts” (Elliot). Continually as red ink is used for corrections, people associate their mistakes with red ink so after a while it becomes second nature for people to have negative connotations with the color. Red ink affects students’ emotional levels, which can alter their performance on tests and hinders their learning abilities. Rutchick, a psychology professor from California State Northridge, explains, “Writing in red is widely associated with correction and evaluative harshness.” This quote supports the theory that since red is so noticeable, teachers are more likely to focus on it. In turn, this emphasizes the errors, making students’ work appear not worthy of a high grade. To further analyze the relationship of red ink to low academic performance, Rutchick performed three case studies. The first study involved a random sampling of people given either red or blue pens and asked to fill in missing letters of roots to form complete words. Results showed that people with red ink pens formed substantially more words related to failure and negativity then people with blue ink from the roots. This is an example of how red does simulate negativity. The second study was composed of a random sampling of people making corrections on a two-paragraph excerpt with either a red or...
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