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Knox researchers Nancy Curry '04 and Psychology Professor Tim Kasser investigated how coloring can reduce levels of anxiety in people.


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Popularity of Adult Coloring Books Puts a Spotlight on Knox Research

Knox researchers Nancy Curry '04 and Psychology Professor Tim Kasser investigated how coloring can reduce levels of anxiety in people.

by Niki Acton '16

The rising popularity of adult coloring books is bringing renewed attention to research by Nancy Curry '04 and Professor of Psychology Tim Kasser, who in 2004 were the first to investigate the anxiety-reducing benefits of coloring.

Most recently, their research was featured in an online article titled "Color Your Way Calm." The article, which appeared on Safe Bee, explored the stress-reducing benefits of adult coloring books.

"It's fun to color, and you can't be having fun and be anxious at the same time very easily,'' Kasser is quoted as saying in the article.

In 2005, Curry and Kasser's paper appeared in Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association. Their research was conducted as Curry's senior research project and explored the question of whether anxiety can be lessened through the coloring of mandalas, which are intricate symbols used in meditative traditions.

"The study was significant because no one had ever empirically tested this question with a randomized, experimental design," said Kasser. "I think the paper is receiving attention again because it has been replicated since its original publication and these new adult coloring books are so popular right now."

The study tested anxiety reduction in students by providing one group with a mandala to color, one group with a plaid design, and one group with a blank sheet for free-form drawing. Their results displayed a significant reduction in anxiety after spending 20 minutes coloring the mandala design, some reduction in anxiety after coloring the plaid design, and no reduction in anxiety after free-form drawing.

After graduating from Knox, Curry earned her Master's in Social Work from Loyola University - Chicago. For two years, she was a Peace Corps volunteer working in the Fiji Islands, and now works as a clinical program coordinator with Einstein Healthcare Network in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

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Printed on Sunday, April 5, 2020