The Primitive Appeal of The Color Red
Posted by The Situationist Staff on February 12, 2009
Below we excerpt, in time for Valentine’s Day, a press release of an interesting new study linking red to sexual attraction.
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A study by two University of Rochester psychologists published in Oct. by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology adds color — literally and figuratively — to the age-old question of what attracts men to women.
Through five psychological experiments, Andrew Elliot, professor of psychology, and Daniela Niesta, post-doctoral researcher, demonstrate that the color red makes men feel more amorous toward women. And men are unaware of the role the color plays in their attraction.
“It’s only recently that psychologists and researchers in other disciplines have been looking closely and systematically at the relationship between color and behavior. Much is known about color physics and color physiology, but very little about color psychology,” said Elliot. “It’s fascinating to find that something as ubiquitous as color can be having an effect on our behavior without our awareness.”
Although this aphrodisiacal effect of red may be a product of societal conditioning alone, the authors argue that men’s response to red more likely stems from deeper biological roots. Research has shown that nonhuman male primates are particularly attracted to females displaying red. Female baboons and chimpanzees, for example, redden conspicuously when nearing ovulation, sending a clear sexual signal designed to attract males.
“Our research demonstrates a parallel in the way that human and nonhuman male primates respond to red,” concluded the authors. “In doing so, our findings confirm what many women have long suspected and claimed — that men act like animals in the sexual realm. As much as men might like to think that they respond to women in a thoughtful, sophisticated manner, it appears that at least to some degree, their preferences and predilections are, in a word, primitive.”
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The red effect extends only to males and only to perceptions of attractiveness. Red did not increase attractiveness ratings for females rating other females and red did not change how men rated the women in the photographs in terms of likability, intelligence or kindness.
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For the rest of the press release, click here. For some related Situationist posts, see “Coloring Situation,” “The Color of Sex Appeal,” “The Situation of Hair Color,” and “Shades of Fairness and the Marketing of Prejudice.”