Attributional Chromatics: How Does the Color of Written Communication Affect Interpersonal Perceptions?

Adam S. Richards, Edward L. Fink


This study investigated how the color of written communication influences interpersonal attributions. An experiment was conducted whereby students read a peer’s graded essay that varied according to the color of the ink used by the instructor. Feedback in red, compared with green or black, generally elicited more negative perceptions. Students reading feedback in red experienced greater negative emotion, gave the essay a lower grade, and judged the student-author to be less capable. A mediation model whereby negative emotion intervened between the color manipulation and the assessments made toward the essay, the student, and the instructor was supported. Nonrecursivity between student and instructor characteristics was found. Positive perceptions of student ability reduced perceptions of instructor competence, whereas positive perceptions of instructor competence increased perceptions of student ability.


attribution, color, affect, nonverbal communication, instructional feedback

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