Want to experience an interesting experiment in how our brains work?

On a recent blog post, 20 Surefire Ways to Beat Writer’s Block, we were discussing methods for working through write’s block. Mark Tillman Tillison of Tillman Tillison Consulting (sorry for the typos Mark) offered the very interesting idea that:

…writing (or typing) using colour can also be very effective (in overcoming writer’s block).

This works because creative and technical processes are handled by the two different hemispheres of the brain. Using colour helps the two hemispheres to work together.

Funny, I’d never thought about it using different colors to help stimulate different parts of the brain when I write. I’d love to know more about it. Have you had any experience with this?

What I found even more interesting was a link to The ColorText Brain Teaser that LaurenMarie of Creative Curio added during the conversation.

The ColorText Brain Teaser was put together by Phillip Miller Eberz who say something similar posted on a middle school wall in Texas.

The basic idea is to see how easy it is to trick the brain through association. You have to try it…

Below is an example of The ColorText Brain Teaser. You do it by saying the color of each word. Be careful not to say the color named by the word. Example: if you see Blue you would say “red” because the color of the word blue is red. It’s harder than it looks. Give it a try…


Now, I have warn you, it’s very easy to trick yourself. Try saying the colors out loud. Or better yet, say them in front of someone else so they can check your accuracy. Then, tell what you think.

I didn’t get six words in without making a mistake. And I’ve done this a dozen times and haven’t made it through once without making a mistake.

I’d love to hear how you do. How far did you get before making a mistake? Tell me about your experience.

Reader Interactions


  1. craig Fatzi9nger says

    Sorry, had no trouble at all and I started off slowly because I read your intro. Then started going faster and was up to speed by the 3 or 4 line.

  2. Dee says


  3. Jill Scott says

    I made it through without a mistake. I was slow and methodical, and taking off my reading glasses helped! I just sort of zoned out on the reading aspect. Maybe it is because I’m a designer by profession and deal with a gut sense of color all the time.
    Hope this helped

  4. Sen McCartney says

    I made it all the way through, but I had to force myself to concentrate on the color, and not the word.

  5. John Morarre says

    This was fun. The secret to accuracy and speed (for me at least) is only think colors and don’t read at all. I think I might be shifting to right brain ( artistic side ) instead of the left brain which decodes the letter symbols. Is there a cognitive function expert out there to confirm or correct this theory?

  6. Brian D says

    Didn’t see the difficulty in it. I rattle it off saying the color of the type and not the word spelled out at about normal speaking rate and never missed one. I then did it backwards for fun and again never missed one. I caught myself maybe twice being “drawn” to say the wrong color but always got it right.

  7. Phil Gerbyshak says

    Dawud – this is an interesting challenge, especially for me. I’m a little bit “shade” color blind; that is blue/violet, grey/green/brown, colors that are close hit me funny and I don’t know what’s what. So for me, I have to just “read” it, I can’t “see” it as well as others. That’s an advantage for me.

    Intuitively, what do we read that we don’t see, or what do we listen to that we don’t hear? There are messages all around us, some good, some bad, we just have to be tuned in to really hear them well.

    And the power of focus is all that can get you through this. Skimming won’t work. What in our lives need that enhanced focus?

    No answers from me tonight, just more questions.

  8. janice richards says

    I am an abstract artist. I said each one aloud and accurately.
    I did not rush judge them, as I do not rush judge any color.
    Yes I can see how this can be very tricky with the ‘unworked
    color’ mind. I am glad I got every one, it means alot to me to
    confirm that I am directly interpretating my experience with color. I would suggest this practice to art teachers for students. To work the muscle of actually seeing.
    Thank you. My muscle is in good form.
    Janice Richards

  9. Dawud Miracle says

    I was reading it as though I was reading a book. Not so much focusing or concentrating on being accurate. I was using this as an experiment in associations – which we make all the time. How often do we substitute our associations for real meaning?

  10. MR says

    I didn’t have any trouble reading it out loud or to myself. I actually read it out loud twice to my son without making any mistakes.

    It’s all a matter of focusing on what the word says, not what color it is. Though I suspect it would get tiring after a while.

  11. Rhonda says

    The first time I made it to the first white colored word blue. The second time, I made it the whole way through–however was able to do so by singing the colors. I had to relax my mind and tell myself ignor the word–colors only. It was as though by singing I could distract myself from the act of reading and focus on the color of the word.

  12. bee says

    Strangely, I had no trouble with this. I thought I would get tripped up, but I didn’t. Interesting challenge.

  13. Joann Loos says

    I didn’t have problems with it, but I will admit to being a programmer that uses color coded editors for development.
    That may be why the words are disassociated from their colors

  14. George says

    I read through them all without making a mistake. As I pronounced them out loud it took a bit but if I said them silently before speaking out loud tabout 10 into it I made the first mistake. But corrected it before speaking out loud.

  15. Carma Dutra says

    I do this all the time. Substitute associations. The best way to explain this is that when I am speaking a foreign language, I am thinking in English and translating before I speak and when learning a foreign language I am learning it in English in my mind. I wonder how many people who speak a foreign language do it that way?

    As a kid I had trouble with the multiple times table so when ever it came to 3 x 8 I knew that 6 x 4 was the same and I always thought 6 x 4 when I had to do 3 x 8. This may not be the best example

    I did not read all the way through the brain teaser. After the first two lines I stopped because I was bored. It would take me to long.

  16. Nancy Parks says

    Yes; What a fun and challenging exercise to do! It took me 36 seconds to complete it without a mistake,reading it outloud, and concentrating on the basic color of the word,not the word and what it said, but what color it was instead, and I need
    ed to really focus intently at it, plus it really taught me to focus more on what I am under-
    standing on what I am reading and comprehending, it merely just brought me more so in focus on alot of things. I’ll be trying it again,because it was such a fun challenge!!

    Sincerely Yours;

    Nancy Parks.

  17. Nancy Parks says

    I loved the challenge, and it took me 36 seconds to complete the challege, by reading it out loud without making a mistake at all, and basicly just concen
    trating on the colors, not the
    spelling of the words, just the colors only with focus!!

    Sincerely yours;

    Nancy Parks.

  18. carl says

    All correct the first time in about 35 seconds. Look at the first letter in each word and not the whole word and with color and not read in your mind it gets easier.

  19. elly says

    actually, blue, yellow and gray aren’t the only colors used. white, yellow, pink, red, purple, orange, and green are also used. i was able to go through the whole thing pretty quick without a mistake. well… at least i went as quick as i could without starting to say the name of the wrong color.

  20. carl says

    [quote comment=”9318″]All correct the first time in about 35 seconds. Look at the first letter in each word and not the whole word and with color and not read in your mind it gets easier.[/quote]

  21. elly says

    actually, blue, yellow and gray aren’t the only colors used. white, pink, red, purple, orange, and green are also used. i was able to go through the whole thing pretty quick without a mistake. well… at least i went as quick as i could without starting to say the name of the wrong color.

  22. tosmart4u says

    I think the reason this was found in a middle school is because it only tricks minds which are at or below a middle school mentality. Thats my personal assumption because I zoomed through the whole thing w/ out messing it up.

  23. Outsdr says

    [quote comment=”9321″]actually, blue, yellow and gray aren’t the only colors used. white, pink, red, purple, orange, and green are also used. i was able to go through the whole thing pretty quick without a mistake. well… at least i went as quick as i could without starting to say the name of the wrong color.[/quote]

    Doesn’t surprise me. I’m very color deficient (“Color Blind” so to speak) depending on the circumstances… like when the color selection is very small.

    Ironically, I’m a graphic designer. πŸ˜€ I’m known for working in primary colors.

  24. Dawud Miracle says

    As I said earlier, this is easy if you take it as a challenge, a game, and go after it to beat it. But try just reading it as though you’re reading the newspaper. Don’t try to defeat it, just read and watch what your mind does with it.

    I didn’t find this interesting as a challenge to your mental prowess. Rather as a look at how, in our daily lives, rather than reading to understand we make associations with things that may or may not relate to what we’re reading.

    Take a look at it from there and what will you find?

  25. dlldotexe says

    This is really crazy. Crazy but cool. I tried several times but I couldn’t perfect it.

    I think the secret is not to rush it. Take time and stay focused.

  26. Vince says

    Just in case you didn’t know or wanted to read up more on this phenomenon, it’s called the Stroop Effect. It’s fascinating all the little things about our experience of the world that we didn’t know until experimenters really started poking about the mind and the brain in the last century or so.

  27. Michelle says

    The first time I tried it, I read the words. I went back to see the directions. It is much more difficlt to say the color of the word you see. Interesting.

  28. keith says

    this was not even a challenge. I made it through the entire thing without even coming close to making a mistake.

  29. M-A-B says

    An interesting brain teaser.

    I found myself functioning simultaneously at 2 levels – correctly naming the pigment of each word and contemplating what each word denotes.

  30. Helen West says

    I’m an art teacher and I was happy that I read them all correctly as well. I didn’t rush either. I think understanding the directions and not rushing is the key!:}

  31. Maggie says

    I had no trouble getting them all correct, but I have had a number of tests and the hemispheres of my brain appear to work well together. Another trick you can do that shows how hard it is for your left brain and right brain to operate at the same time is this: Have a person try to draw a picture from life – say a simple still life of a bottle and piece of fruit. It doesn’t matter if they are a horrible artist or not. Stand about 10 feet away from them so you can get a good look at what they are doing, then start asking them questions every couple of minutes. They will stop drawing every time they try to answer you. This is because the right brain is involved in the drawing process and the left brain in the speaking process. It is almost impossible to do them both at the same time. I did a grad school project on this with video and research – the whole nine yards. It was amazing to watch and it didn’t matter if the subject was an adult or a child.

  32. bob says

    The point, I think, is not can I do it, but what did I learn? I became aware that when I said the word I used a different, more accessible part of my brain, and when I said the right color it took a little longer to inhibit the immediate response and search out that part of my brain that identifies colors.

  33. Neelam says

    There is a Psychology test with this idea named the Stroop test. – It is actually a neuropsychological test (e.g. to assess brain damage)…

  34. Sarah says

    I made it all the way through. I am a teacher, so I have been trained to focus on the phonemes in words, not the text, which is why I think I can do it.

  35. Elizabeth says

    Believe it or not, I thought I completed
    (out loud) without a mistake, and after reading your comment, I did it again, to
    ensure I was’nt mistaken.

    Happen to be an interior designer of 25 plus years, and I’ve spent most of my professional time consulting color. Lots
    of projects. In fact, I am so excited about how we perceive color, etc. etc., I am very interested in what others have to say about color. The emotional effects of color are most fascinating.

  36. Elizabeth says

    Easy, but I have synesthesia so I’m used to disassociating color and letters when the non-synesthete majority imposes irrelevant colors on text. For example, for me, “P” will always be a sort of yellow, so even if the word “purple” is in pink, or blue or whatever in this exercise, I have learned to “translate” it, as one reader noted, because all words in my mind are influenced by the “color” of the first letter. For instance, when I see the word “purple” in pink, or orange, or blue, etc., my mind interprets that word as a yellowish word, because of the immutable yellow of the first letter “P” – regardless of the fact that other letters in the word carry different color associations individually.

    So, it’s not a stretch for me, and I suspect other synesthetes, to reinterpret color information when it is superficially associated with text, numbers, etc. We’re used to that “misinformation”.

    Interesting memory exercise, though – I have no doubt that these innate color/text, color/numeral associations help me memorize, and I have heard the same from others with synesthesia. Check out Richard Cytowic’s “The Man Who Tasted Shapes” for more info on synesthesia!

  37. William says

    Made it through without one mistake. I pointed to each word with my mouse and stated the colour rather than reading the word. Maybe without the mouse I wouldn’t have done as well.

  38. B says

    I got into the 18th word

    I’d love to know how it compares to how people see it. Do they see the word or the color (hance yu getting into the 6th word before tripping up)

    Also, how does it compare between righties and lefties (since studies show how their brain is dominant). I am a leftie but I used to be rightie

    lastly, hw does it compare to male/female, adult/child

    I’d love to hear reorts on it

  39. Jenny says

    I just took the test. I was able to do it. At first I had to concetrate and then I realized that there is a trick to it. I made my mind see only the color not the word. If that makes any sense.

  40. dan twilley says

    i took notes in college in multiple majic marker colors…..i always was cluthcing a handful of five to l0 colors that i would alternate between whenever the professor shifted from one thought to another…….going back to the same color when one thought tied into a previous one…….a different color when he shifted thoughts…….just felt right……….gee……i am such an idiot……

  41. Babs Rollins says

    I first read it by the words and thought this must not be right, it was easy. Then I read the color not of the word and that was easy too. I like challenges that push your brains to think. It was fun! Now on to something else.

  42. NotColorBlind says

    Lost it entirely on the first try, very difficult to do at a normal speed.
    Slowed waaaay down and was able to make it through on the second attempt, but only by going very slowly. Much harder than I would have thought. Nice test!

  43. browneyesgreen says

    I loved the test, I was able to get to 36 before messing up, but that was with determined concentration only. Had I just gone ahead and said them faster, it would have been a different outcome, I am sure. It was fun. Thanks for the opportunity to participate.

  44. NotColorBlind says

    [quote comment=”9369″]Lost it entirely on the first try, very difficult to do at a normal speed.
    Slowed waaaay down and was able to make it through on the second attempt, but only by going very slowly. Much harder than I would have thought. Nice test![/quote]

  45. Dr. Jean C. Sloop says

    I just retired after 50 years of college teaching, 48 of them at the university here.
    In coaching foreign language diction for
    singers, I discovered that getting the stu-
    dent to use a colored dot above a frequently
    mispronounced vowel could correct the prob-
    lem in very short order. This was first tried by me with a graduate student from
    Taiwan working on a German text. She came in
    the next week LETTER-PERFECT! From then on, I recommended it to all my voice students.

  46. Barbara says

    First time I got 36 words right. Second and third time all of them. If I had to do them fast and quietly I don’t think I would have done so well.

  47. Ariel says

    It’s a variation of the Stroop Test, that’s all. For extensive explanations about the processes involved and the resulting effects, do a search for Stroop Test. Basically, we read and verbalize routinely, whereas we rarely verbalize colors. Yes, laterality is involved (respective halves of the brain), but practice is more relevant. Looking at colors and naming them aloud would be a good priming activity for this type of task.

  48. Gail says

    I don’t know what it means but I had no trouble doing that right, I think its because I am a hair dresser and haircolor is my specialty, plus I love to read.

  49. meghan says

    I did it.
    I can’t believe it…but I did it.
    I did it twice perfectly.
    And the second time I “refreshed” the page.

  50. Wayne says

    I was lucky and got through without a mistake but people have always said I wasn’t right in the head. Also I can just look at the colors and block out the words, weird huh?

  51. Al Fontana says

    The suggestion ‘not to read the word itself,’ implants the idea of reading the word, despite the instruction to ‘say the color.”

    As an artist I got through this exercise, but could feel literacy trying to trip me up.

    This felt like multi-tasking. Saying the color actually gave me enough delay time to not slip up.

    Each color has a word name, too, which drew me towards reading
    the next word instad of saying the color, several times.

  52. David says

    I actually didn’t make a mistake, but halfway through I caught myself before making a mistake. After that, I called out what color I saw and ignored the letters which made up the words; I isolated groups of forms in the same color and I went through it pretty fast that way. Fun, interesting.

  53. Add says

    I got a trick.Just squint your eyes a bit so that the words are blurr not clear .You can read all the colours as they are not the words

  54. Rob says

    Tried it twice, once to myself and once out load and did not make one mistake, lets get out of kindergarten and move on to first grade stuff

  55. michael says

    Got through all of them out loud without mistake. The key is to stop and look, forget the word, just look at the color and name the color. Stop and slow down, realize that you’re being bs’d, then sort thru the bs.

  56. mikey georgeson says

    i’m really interested in dialogue rather than battle between the two sides of the brain -for me its a microcosm of the human plight. i did the test and found it very easy to say the words without mistakes quite rapidly. i found it harder to say the colours. i love to know what this says about my brain ( as a visual artist/musician)

  57. Mi says

    I didn’t make a mistake. Maybe it’s because I had to think of the color in English (I kept thinking Violet for Purple and had to change that thought) or sometimes in my own language.

    I did it fast too!

  58. Henri van den Hoof says

    I have made it through without a mistake too! πŸ˜€ But in my case it might be very logical as I am Dutch. And even though I’m pretty fluent with English, the brain probably is not as easily fooled as if it would be in my native Dutch language.

  59. Jon says

    It’s a funny thing when you’re color blind… I tried to identify the colors, but ultimately had to read the word to see what color it was NOT. Being color blind is an interesting handicap, I can tell you that much…

  60. Mike says

    I think as an artist I am used to thinking
    about and distinguishing colors so it was not difficult, but I did not rush. When the first gray came up I had to ask myself, “What shall I call that?”

  61. Nancy says

    I got 42 words correct, maybe it’s because I work with color, I run an art studio. But on the 43rd word I finally messed up! Neat test!

  62. Nancy says

    [quote comment=”9402″]I got 42 words correct, maybe it’s because I work with color, I run an art studio. But on the 43rd word I finally messed up! Neat test![/quote]

  63. Vince says

    As far as I know, the stroop effect has less of a basis on hemispheres of the brain, and more to do with the speed of colour identification (and the neural mechanisms involved). I could be wrong, though, I haven’t read up on the Stroop Effect in some time now. Dawud: definitely go and read more. It’s fascinating stuff – I’m just finishing up my master’s thesis in philosophy right now on some other similar perceptual/cognitive phenomena.

    I think most of you who are able to read the words out loud without mistakes will still find that the interference caused by the disjointed sensory information will still cause you to read them slower than if they had all been in black text – especially if you read the words out loud. I’ve seen this demonstration done at our local science centre every week for years now and it’s really quite impressive to see a crowd fall all over themselves trying to follow the text. Even did a rendition of it myself for my undergraduate cognitive psych tutorial.

  64. Mark Wisniewski says

    I have to admit,the first time I tried this
    my initial thought was to say the “color”
    of the word.I would somehow catch myself
    before blurting it out and recover to
    correctly name each color word.I did find it
    tough though.This is a great excercise!I
    think that the more one does it,the more
    beneficial it would be to one’s brainpower.
    I feel smarter already!! Ha Ha Ha!

  65. Nance says

    I was very surprised that this was not difficult for me! I am not always the sharpest tool in the shed….however, have been an artist and graphic designer so maybe brain trained differently? It was easier to just say colors, then read words. Brain zoned into colors instead of letters of words….

  66. kathy says

    I tried this and surprisingly didn’t have any trouble until the orange word orange…it really stopped me on a dime. My mind kept saying the word is orange and the color is orange?!?!?!?!?!

  67. James says

    [quote comment=”9303″]I didn’t have any trouble reading it out loud or to myself. I actually read it out loud twice to my son without making any mistakes.

    It’s all a matter of focusing on what the word says, not what color it is. Though I suspect it would get tiring after a while.[/quote]

    you did it backwards – part of the reason for your ease. you’re supposed to say the color of the word, and not read the actual word.

  68. sheila says

    it was hard, but i was able to do it without any mistakes. i went at a moderate pace, not too slow and not too fast. i think, too, like nance, my brain is already trained in that i am a photographer and a musician–the right and left sides of my brain have received equal training for this quiz. i think the visual/spatial thinker would have an advantage over taking a quiz like this.

  69. ml3 says

    We accept and assume colors and have to interpret words. Seeing the word “green’ colored blue doesn’t make you see the color as green. It makes you concentrate on saying the word and ignoring the color, just as you don’t say ‘black’ when reading a color name in regular text.

    Still, this was an interesting exercise.

  70. LaurenMarie - Creative Curio says

    Wow, Dawud! Maybe this is why your site was cranky yesterday? Did you get on the front page of Digg? Amazing the response to this little quiz! I’d have written about it on my site if I knew it would get this kind of reaction πŸ˜‰

    I wish more people would have understood the point of this brain teaser. It’s to have fun and just observe how your mind reacts — not to conquer it (I think some people didn’t follow the directions and read the word instead of the color though… and I don’t think being a visual person has anything to do with it! I’m a graphic designer and I still had troubles!).

    I didn’t know about the Stroop Effect. I’m glad someone mentioned that! Our brains sure are interesting and complex!

    [quote comment=”9331″]There are messages all around us, some good, some bad, we just have to be tuned in to really hear them well.[/quote]

    Great point!

    Oh, and thanks for the mention, Dawud πŸ™‚

  71. Dawud Miracle says

    No, I got to the first position on Netscape.com for a number of hours. The traffic overloaded my server and took down a whole bunch of sites. Time to move off shared hosting.

    I’m intrigued by the Stroop Effect also. I’ll probably write about it some time soon.

  72. Michael Repplinger says

    The colour experiment itself is pretty neat, but the connection to overcoming ones writer’s block is a bit unclear. I wonder if/how that works.

  73. Dawud Miracle says

    study guide,
    That’s the key – if you stay focused.

    Well, isn’t it all about perception? How we perceive things is what moves us. So if I perceive myself as having a writing block, then I will. But isn’t that just a perception? The question I have is what changes are perception?

    Sorry I was away and unable to answer all your comments. I didn’t expect to reach the #1 position on Netscape and so my server wasn’t ready to receive such a huge volume of traffic. I’m so sorry for the crash. I appreciate all your interest in this post and I have worked out my server problems so this doesn’t happen in the future.

  74. Adam Kayce : Monk At Work says

    Yep, slow and methodical did the trick.

    And, how cool on all the interest this post generated?

    I just had to comment, since this is the 100th comment on this post… just in case ribbons flew out of the sidebar and bells went off, saying that I won a prize.

  75. Alvaro says

    Fun post. In fact, this is a well-known test, called Stroop Test, used by neuropsychologists to measure one’s ability to control impulses…you have to try the computerized interactive version!

  76. Seamonkey says

    I never made a mistake, but I’ve also seen something close to this and I didn’t make a mistake then either… odd…
    I was able to do it pretty fast as well.

  77. Dawud Miracle says

    Sorry, no ribbons – yet. Look for streamers in the future, though.

    Yeah, it’s pretty neat, huh? Other’s mentioned the Stroop test above – including Dr. Jean C. Stroop.


  78. Zaira says

    I got 31 words in. I am 12 and tested my friends. They all messed up in the first line! HAHA! I am doing a science fair project asking if black or colored text is more easily remembered. That’s how I found you. Cool site!

  79. Holly says

    I don’t see why everyone makes it a point to be kind of rude.

    Well, this isn’t a test you do slowly.
    This is a test that your suppose to read fast. Just like your reading the newspaper.
    you don’t read every word individually do you?

    It’s not just a brain teaser, it’s a test to see which triggers your brain more, the words, or the colors.

  80. Arghya says

    Well that was very simple u know if u know the right technique!!!!!!!!
    TOO EASY!!!!!!!!!! IF U KNOW HOW!!
    Never try to focus at all !!
    Get ur vision relaxed !!! there ain’t a need to concentrate u know!!!
    Just see the entire box as a whole with ur blurred vision ,Don’t go by the shape of the characters and u’ll find that the boxes simply contains patches of colors!!
    NOW it becomes easier for the brain to interpret!!! cos it simultaneously doesn’t have to differentiate between our objective of interpreting the color and the meaning of the word!!!
    I got through it in the very first try following the simple technique!!
    TRY IT OUT AND EVEN U CAN DO IT!!!!!!!!!!!!

  81. Sylvia says

    I just did the color word teaser exercise and although I wasn’t going too fast, I was slowing down every few lines. I said all the colors outlout and correctly. I didn’t make any mistakes. I don’t know why or how. but I focused on the actual color of the word not the word itself. So, when there was a word that spelled its actual color I thought I’d made a mistake, but I hadn’t.

  82. chassidy says

    I took the test, it’s really cool, and hard at the same time. Thanks!, that was fun, I got through the first 15, and then I messed up. I’m going to keep trying to see if I can go through more without a mistake. πŸ™‚

  83. chassidy says

    I’m also doing a project, i’m 13. It’s a really cool site, and ‘m glad I found it.The piont of the test is to read fast, not slow, and carefully. It’s really fun, and just because you got them right, good job! Don’t make bad comments on the site. It’s cool, and challenging, & that’s awsome. :p πŸ™‚

  84. Rachel says

    Getting through the whole block of words wasn’t difficult at all, so then I tried to do the opposite: say the color of the word, not the word its self. That proved to be much more difficult!

  85. Samson Alumpit says

    Reading that color brain teaser is very difficult. Even though i’ve red it a lot of times I’m still having difficulty on reading it.

  86. jamie says

    the way i always learned it was by if the word was red but writen in “green” you ot to say green…. not the word being spelled…. but rather the the outside colour.


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