The attentional capture of colour in visual interface design

Emil Andersen, Anja Maier

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


The use of colour is an integral component in visual interface design for creating separation between objects and for conveying meaning. It has previously been established that colours can be separated in a hierarchy of primary colours and secondary colours, and that colours are consistently associated with specific mood tones. However, it has thus far not been investigated whether these two factors, which we refer to as the perception-primacy and emotion-conveyance, are associated with attentional capture in a congruent manner. To investigate this, we conducted a visual search task study in a controlled environment, in which 11 participants scanned a 20 item display for a coloured target amongst coloured distractors. We found evidence to support that primary colours capture attention significantly more than secondary colours, and inconclusive evidence that colours convey their meaning at a sufficiently early level of processing to influence attention. We end by discussing implications of our results for design practice and research in psychology.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 25 Aug 2017
Event21st International Conference on Engineering Design (ICED 17) - Vancouver, Canada
Duration: 21 Aug 201725 Aug 2017


Conference21st International Conference on Engineering Design (ICED 17)
Abbreviated titleICED 17


  • attention in design
  • emotional design
  • communication
  • human behaviour in design
  • visualisation


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