Red: The color of blood, passion, courage, and certain Gap ad campaigns. Scientists say red, more than other colors, provokes clearly identifiable reactions in human beings. Here, four recent findings that may change the way you look at crimson:
1. Red intensifies our physical reactions
Seeing red causes people to react faster and more forcefully, according to a new study published in the journal Emotion. Our bodies react to red, a culturally ingrained signal of danger, as if we've seen a threat, says study author Andrew Elliot of the University of Rochester, as quoted by MSNBC. The reaction doesn't last long, and people aren't even aware of it, but, according to UPI, the findings "may have applications for sporting and other activities in which a brief burst of strength and speed is needed, such as weightlifting."
2. Red makes men more desirable to women
Men in red are "more attractive, more powerful and more sexually desirable to women," according to another study by Elliot, cited by CBS News. The study, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, asked women to rate pictures of men framed by or wearing a variety of colors. The women rated men in red "higher in status and more likely to earn a better living." That perception, which may stem from the fact that red pigmentation indicates male dominance in a number of animal species, leads to the attraction. Earlier research found that men also find women in red more attractive because the color suggests "sexual receptivity."
3. Red is the color of winners
The color red can be intimidating — just ask Tiger Woods, who famously wears red on the final day of golf tournaments (and, until recently, tended to triumph). A 2005 study by British scientists found that athletes wearing red "have an advantage over blue-suited competitors," according to MSNBC. "We find that wearing red is consistently associated with a higher probability of winning," the researchers wrote in the journal Nature. The effect is subtle, though, so it may only factor in when evenly matched competitors face off.
4. Red can cause failure on exams
Seeing "even a hint of red" on an exam can affect a test-taker's performance "to a significant degree," researchers reported in 2007. Perhaps because instructors often use red ink to mark errors, people associate the color "with mistakes and failures," and, "in turn, they do poorly on" the exam in front of them.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- The mystery behind China's aggressive push into space
- Here's the schedule very successful people follow every day
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- Why Texas' abortion rates aren't falling as quickly as everyone expected
- 7 grammar rules you really should pay attention to
- The 5 best and worst states for a well-lived life
- As deadly skin cancer rates keep climbing, surgeon general says to stop tanning and wear sunscreen
- 7 ideas from ancient thinkers that will improve your modern life
- Why all drugs should be legal. (Yes, even heroin.)
- Yes, Republicans can impeach President Obama
Subscribe to the Week