Ripon seniors study manipulation of anger through puzzles

An article regarding the relationship between colors and emotions caught the interest of seniors Gary Sexson III of Crystal Lake, Illinois, and Sara Ertel, of Sheboygan, Wisconsin. The pair used this concept as the basis for their Psychology Senior Seminar research and incorporated the use of puzzles.

Ertel and Sexson conducted research through a volunteer-based experiment. They tested 94 participants using three types of puzzles: normal, missing a piece and impossible. The puzzles came in two colors: white and red. Each of the subjects was randomly assigned one of six possible puzzles: white normal, white missing one piece, white impossible, red normal, red missing one piece and red impossible. The participants were given just one minute to solve the puzzle.

“We had a lot of fun with this — especially when the participants would begin to stress over their inability to complete a puzzle, when it was really unsolvable,” says Ertel.

Before embarking on the puzzle-solving, the volunteers were asked to rate their emotions on two scales: happy to sad and calm to frustrated. After finishing the puzzle, the participants were asked to rate their emotions again on that same scale to see if there had been any change.

“Time constraints and small sample sizes are the two biggest issues (we faced while researching),” Sexson says. “Ripon is a small school, and getting people to participate in studies is not as easy as you would think. If we had more time, we could have looked at other colors and the emotions they are associated with.”

One of the greatest takeaways Sexson has from the experiment is the discovery of a definite relationship between the color red and anger. “So when you want to calm down, do not surround yourself with the color red,” he says.

Ertel is a double-major in psychology and education, and Sexson is a double-major in psychology and business management. Both say their found the experience and measurable research an incredibly rewarding opportunity for their studies.

Dakota Marlega ’21
Waupaca, Wisconsin

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