Do you hate studying? Do you hate taking notes and never knowing which piece of information is where? Well, this commonly known study tip is actually useful, not just to make your notebook look pretty.
The tip? Color coordinate certain things!! You can such as definitions, dates, and headings of topics. This way you can easily block out other notes when looking for a specific piece of information. If we highlight all definitions in yellow, we can skim our notes, only having to look for things in yellow to quickly find our definition, which also gives you a memory tool during test time. Certain color usage may make certain tidbits of information stick out amongst all of the other facts you have to know.
This idea uses Broadbent’s filter theory, which he uses to explain selective attention. Kendra Cherry writes an article, reviewed by Dr. Steven Gans MD, and defines selective attention as “the process of focusing on a particular object in the environment for a certain period of time”(Cherry, 2019). Color coding allows selective attention to happen easier, as our brain has a color to hone in on. Not only that, but NCBI notes that color “functions as a powerful information channel to the human cognitive system and has been found to play a significant role in enhancing memory performance”(Dzulkifli and Mustafar, 2013). Using color in your notes can help you on your test, it literally helps the brain remember more information. It is even used to help patients with dyslexia (Dzulkifli and Mustafar, 2013). If something as simple as highlighting your notes can significantly help memorization and retention, why not do it? The two authors, Dzulkilfi and Mustafar, outline numerous studies in which color aids in memory and retention. They note that “The more attention focused on certain stimuli, the more chances of the stimuli to be transferred to a more permanent memory storage” and color is what brings attention to the stimuli (Dzulkifli and Mustafar, 2013). They write about a doctor who performed a study where they participants were tested on their recall of shapes and their color. It resulted in higher retention of the color than the shape (Dzulkifli and Mustafar, 2013). So maybe instead of circling and underlining notes, writing them in color pen or highlighting will result in better test grades.
What do I think? I think that anything is worth trying. As I read on in the article, there is so much proven that color is extremely useful when it comes to retention, and highlighting doesn’t take long, so why not. We can focus in on it, use our selective attention to find it easier amongst all the notes, and it helps us remember. We can use the color association during the test and remember “Oh yeah, that was a date in pink” and that may give you visual clues. In college, any study tip is helpful and if it is as simple as coloring my notes, I will try it out. After all, it makes sense, when we are in a clothing store, we are gravitated towards colors we like, so, why not do the same with our notes, it is psychologically proven.