Using a Red Font: Implications (12-26-19)

Bertramsand colleagues investigated the implications of using a red font for text related to performance reviews; it is likely their findings can be extended to other contexts. The research group shares that “The color red has been shown to affect psychological functioning. In performance settings, it is associated with negative emotions, avoidance motivation, and cognitive restriction. . . . we conducted a web-based experiment in which . . . participants performed an alleged attention test and were then given moderately critical feedback, including hints for improvement. . . . either some of the words within the feedback were presented in red letters or all words were presented in standard black. The participants’ subsequent evaluation of the feedback revealed that using red in the feedback caused the feedback to be perceived as relatively less emotionally positive. There was no direct effect of using a red font in how the feedback was cognitively perceived (i.e., how helpful, fair, or comprehensible it was). . . . red should be used cautiously in critical feedback in order to avoid compromising the functions of feedback.”

Alex Bertrams, Lea Althaus, Tina Boss, Patricia Furrer, Ladina Jegher, Paulina Soszynska, and Vinzenz Tschumi.  “Using Red Font Influences the Emotional Perception of Critical Performance Feedback.” Swiss Journal of Psychology, vol. 79, no. 1, pp. 27-33, https://doi.org/10.1024/1421-0185/a000230