Wearing red could help men land the woman of their dreams. A new study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General shows that women find men dressed in red, more attractive than those attired in other colors. Why, exactly? Here, a concise guide:
What did the study find?
Researchers asked 32 females and 25 males to rate the attractiveness of a man in a photo framed by different colors, or wearing a variety of colored shirts. The volunteers, on average, rated the subject one point higher on a nine-point scale when he was pictured in red. They were also questioned about the man's "status, likability, kindness and friendliness" — but perceptions of attractiveness and power were the only ones that varied with color.
What about red changes their perception?
Biology and the power of association. Bright red pigmentation is an indicator of male dominance in a wide range of animal species, from robins to baboons. "We found that women view men in red as higher in status, more likely to make money and more likely to climb the social ladder," says University of Rochester psychology professor and the study's lead author, Andrew Elliot. "And it's this high-status judgment that leads to the attraction." The authors also speculate that the tradition of "rolling out the red carpet" for celebrities and dignitaries has created a cultural perception of red as an indicator of social status.
Is the "red effect" limited to American culture?
Apparently not. The study's participants included women from Europe and China, who were similarly influenced by the hue.
Do men find women in red more attactive?
Yes, but for different reasons. Prior to this most recent study, Elliot and co-researcher Daniela Niesta found that men are drawn to women in red, because they see it as an indicator of "sexual receptivity."
So can wearing red turn around a man's dating luck?
Don't expect miracles. Women are "soft-wired, rather than hard-wired, to find males wearing red attractive," says Helen Fisher, a Rutgers University anthropologist. "What I mean is, we have a huge cerebral cortex. If a man walks into a bar wearing a red sweater and has messy jeans, bad teeth and a bad haircut, we're not going to be fooled by the sweater."
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Obama just kneecapped Jeb Bush and Chris Christie's 2016 prospects
- It's official: The religious right is calling it quits
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- The dangerously childish morality of liberal ObamaCare supporters
- Why insects are the future of food
- 10 classic Sesame Street moments we wouldn't show today's kids
- How science is accelerating our search for alien life
- The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1: 10 major differences between the book and the movie
- The real story behind Deliver Us From Evil
Subscribe to the Week