Pen Chromaticity’s Effect on the Recall of Details Following Lecture Annotation

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Northern Kentucky University
When you think of failure, what color comes to mind? If you thought red, you are not alone. Previous studies have indicated that the color red, when seen on exam booklets, worsens academic performance. Nonetheless, some studies find no evidence that red worsens performance, or that its effects depend on the gender of the test taker. The purpose of this study was to investigate the effect of pen color used while taking notes during a lecture on subsequent test scores, perceptions of test difficulty, and note-taking behavior. The data were analyzed using 2 (pen color) x 2 (participant gender) ANOVAs. The results were partially consistent with the hypothesis: we found that use of a red pen resulted in worsened performance compared to use of a blue pen, but only among males. Among females, use of a red pen enhanced performance relative to a blue pen. We found this pattern of results on questions measuring recall but not recognition. We discuss the implications of pen color choice for studying and grading. If students are more aware of the effect of color on academic performance, they may be able to retain and recall more information simply by changing their pen color.
Psychological Functioning, Academic Performance, Gender Differences