The Psychology of Red Essay

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.

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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 blue pen.

As Rutchick hypothesized, the people with red pens marked significantly more errors then people with blue pens, which concluded that red pens induce evaluators to mark more errors. Similar to the second, the third case study asked its participants to make corrections to a paper with either a red or blue pen. This time however, educators were asked to make constructive comments in the margins as well as to assign the paper a grade. The pattern continued by people with red pens making more comments and giving the paper a lower grade then compared to people with blue pens.

These studies provide concrete evidence that red ink directly affects student’s perception to failure and negatively influences their grades. Rutchick and “Seeing Red” specifically evaluate the effects of red ink on students in correlation to their grades, which leads to why education should reach for a better solution. Since the effects of red ink are so strong on student’s emotions and grades, people have questioned if red is the best choice for grading and if an alternative color instead of red would have better effects on students and teachers.

An increasingly popular grading theory insists “red ink is stressful and demoralizes students, while purple, the preferred color, has a more calming effect” (Parmet). As mentioned earlier, the effects of red ink are harsh but purple brings a tranquil nature and comforting connotations that doesn’t evoke students and teachers. The Boston Globe reported: “A mix of red and blue, the color purple embodies red’s sense of authority but also blue’s association with serenity, making it a less negative and more constructive color for correcting student papers. This research supports why purple is the top alternate color and creates eased learning environment with less negative side effects and a positive push. Also because, “The color purple is linked to creativity and royalty, it is also more encouraging to students” (Stepp). It is proven that purple is a more approachable color and may help students learn in a more effective way. The transition to purple ink will be less intimidating and allow the students to not undermine their work and the teachers to grade more precisely.

Teachers are suggested to switch to different grading colors, such as purple, with their everyday evaluations to illustrate the difference it makes in the classroom. Changing to purple ink is the easiest, most simple way to solve this overlooked problem that can change the entire interpretation on a student’s work. Aside from the color of ink, other methods are being used to lessen the stress by eliminating the use of red ink. Kay N. DuVal examines the benefits of using holistic grading rather than traditional red comments in her article “Holistic Grading and the Marking Myth. According to DuVal, holistic grading means “assessing the overall effect of the essay: Does the student state a main idea and support it in an organized manner? Is the essay relatively free of errors in usage and mechanics that the ideas are clearly communicated to the reader? Does this essay show sufficient language skills? ” Once the teacher evaluates these questions, they then write a summary of their comments for the student at the end of the paper and put a grade at the top, which avoids the blood-spilled red ink on papers.

Instead of shredding up a student’s hard work and undermining their self-assurance with red comments, holistic grading focuses on the overall assessment of the essay to encourage the student in a noninvasive manner. Similarly, David Brooks, author of “Wielding the Red Pen,” shares his experience of using the holistic grading method with his English classes and finds it effective for the students, as well as the teachers. At first he let the red ink flow. In his own words, “I circled every passive-verb construction, drew squiggles through each split infinitive, underlined any awkward phrases” (Brooks).

He soon realized that students didn’t pay attention to his overload of comments. They were only interested in their final grade. “So instead I’ve learned to point out recurrent problems in students’ writing once or twice and ask the writer to identify other examples of the problem, then left comments at the end of a paper“ (Brooks). He exemplifies the use of holistic grading by leaving a summary at the end of the paper. By making simple marks along the essay instead of pointing out every flaw, this allows the student to make their own corrections and point out their own mistakes.

The use of holistic grading is evolving more and more to reduce students from being overwhelmed from red ink anxiety and to enable teachers to grade papers unbiasly to their full potential instead of being overwhelmed with red corrections. The color red plays a key role in a student’s academic performance through the emotional impacts of stress and anxiety due to the color, which correlates to poor grades. This is why teachers are switching to other methods of grading such as holistic to provide an overall evaluation or purple ink to lessen the severity of criticism.

Scholars have touched on the effects of red ink on students’ grades, but there is much more to be researched and examined so the education system can accommodate students learning needs. Further research on different grading methods and alternative color options can benefit both the students and the teachers to create a healthy learning environment. Hopefully through this research new and better methods for alternate solutions to the red ink imposition will be resolved. ? Works Cited Brooks, David.

Wielding The Red Pen. Chronicle of Higher Education, 2/11/2011, Vol. 57 Issue 23, pA35-A37, 2p. DuVal, Kay N. Holistic Grading and the Marking Myth. Adult Learning, May/Jun96, Vol. 7 Issue 5, p11, 2p Elliot, Andrew J. Color and Psychological Functioning: The Effect of Red on Performance Attainment. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. American Psychology Association 2007. Parmet, Sherry. Teachers’ Starting to Shun Red Pens, Color may lower Kids Confidence. The San Diego Union-Tribune.

Union-Tribune Publishing October 4, 2004. September 8, 2011 Rutchick, Abraham. The Pen is Mightier than the Word: Object Priming of Evaluative Standards. 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. September 8, 2011 Seeing Red. Journal of College Science Teaching, Jul/Aug2007, Vol. 36 Issue 7, p8-8, 2/3p Stepp, Gina. Helping Children Develop a Positive Sense of Self. Vision 2011. September 8, 2011 Valdez, Patricia. Effects of Color on Emotions. Journal of Experimental Psychology Vol 123(4) Dec, 1994 pp. 394-409