Red Sways Men

  by  |  February 12th, 2009  |  Published in All, Brain & Psychology, Featured, Weird Science

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The way to a man’s heart on valentine’s day? Wear red. This ScienCentral News video explains there is scientific evidence for the attractive power of red.

[If you cannot see the flash video below, you can click here for a high quality mp4 video.]

Interviewee: Daniela Niesta, University of Rochester
Produced by Joyce Gramza- Edited by Chris
Bergendorff and James Eagen Copyright © ScienCentral, Inc

By Heather Mayer

It may be that red is the color of Valentine’s Day because hearts are red. Or there may be more to it than that. Psychology researchers have found that the color red makes women more attractive to males.

“Red is so predominantly used in the context of love and passion and sex that it’s interesting that people are not aware of what it does actually to you in reality,” says Daniela Niesta, a University of Rochester psychology researcher who co-authored the study with Andrew Elliot.

Elliot’s previous research found that the color red can have a negative effect on test performance.

Also on ScienCentral

Wearing Red: An Olympic Advantage?

Red and Lower Test Scores

Fooled For Love

In the attraction study, the researchers first showed male subjects pictures of the same women placed on different colored backgrounds — red, white, grey or green. This was to study whether simply being paired with the color red made a woman more attractive.

“We found consistently women who were shown on a red background were rated as being more beautiful, more attractive, prettier, than exactly the same women who were shown on a differently colored background,” Niesta explains.

Once discovering that the color red seems to make a woman more attractive to males, the researchers took a step further to study how red might affect the dating scene. Different groups of male subjects looked at an image of exactly the same woman, but the researchers had used photo editing software to change only the color of her shirt. They asked the men how much they would want to date this woman, how much they would want to kiss her and how much money they would spend on her for dinner.

“Again, what we found consistently, was the very robust effect that subjects who saw women displayed with a red shirt were more interested in dating her, more interested to go to the prom with her and, in fact, even indicated to spend more money for her on dinner,” Niesta says.

More specifically, if the men had $100 for dinner, they were willing to spend on average $15 more on the same woman wearing a red shirt, Niesta explains.

This new research could be a tool for women on dates who want that extra special dinner.

It turns out the attraction to the color red appears to be unconscious. At the end of the experiment the researchers asked the male subjects if they paid any attention to the women’s hair style, shirt color or facial expression.

“There was no awareness going on there, so the participants did not say anything about the influence that color may have had on them, paying more or seeing women as being more attractive,” says Niesta.

But early studies of female subjects don’t suggest that women find other women more attractive if dressed in red.

“We really think it was only holding true for men looking at women,” Niesta says.

Niesta says they haven’t yet tested whether the red phenomenon works the other way around — whether men may be more attractive to women if they wear red.

“Should guys drive a red sports car to their date?” Niesta laughs. “Well, a red sports car is probably always sexy to drive no matter what we will find out.”

Elsewhere on the Web:

Approach-Avoidance Research Group at the University of Rochester

Color and Mood from Bloomsburg University

Color and Food Taste from Scientific American

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  1. Shiv says:

    February 18th, 2009 at 11:20 am (#)

    This is totally not true… Red is a real turn off b/c it is so bright and intensity is too high. So it doesn’t allow us to see the person.

  2. Pat says:

    January 7th, 2010 at 10:32 am (#)

    One would think that red being attractive to men falls along the lines of the fact that men react like bulls, or that they tend to be color blind to anything but primary colors.

  3. Kenny says:

    March 1st, 2010 at 8:33 pm (#)

    This experiment was extremely subjective. It only tested a persons “attractiveness” which was never even defined. One persons definition may vary from the next which would skew results and create bias. And even if they were to show the same picture to the subjects as soon as they realize that it is the same picture they will have already created an opinion which again creates bias. I reason that the logic behind the experiment has some flaws but sounds like a great idea if there is a better way to test it.

  4. Patrina Runyon says:

    December 1st, 2010 at 9:58 am (#)

    I have shared all our own Valentines Day party ideas such as games for this party, as well as ideas for classroom, Scout or Sunday School Valentine celebrations at our family Carol is married with four grown youngsters who loves to celebrate everything. Their family celebration experiences and traditions .

  5. Contessa Cuzick says:

    December 1st, 2010 at 4:37 pm (#)

    Besides the Kitchen and creating a spa basket another method to produce homemade Valentines Day gifts is to use tech. Create a unique personalized Valentine Day gift by making use of photos of you and your love and produce a Valentines card. Or you could use those unique pictures and create a memorable romantic Flikr showcase or put those pictures on a new digital picture frame. Included some slides of words expressing your love and devotion.

  6. Jo says:

    January 20th, 2011 at 9:20 am (#)

    I’ve met women who say they can’t wear red so it’s my guess wearing red would work against these women. I also read some where that red, yellow and orange are hard on the visual nerve. What if the man doesn’t like red?!

  7. Mel says:

    August 14th, 2011 at 12:27 am (#)

    I like my men in blue.
    What about a woman wearing Burgundy, or a toned down reddish color like Pomegranate?
    I’m pretty sure I look better in those colors than in actual RED.
    Actually, I think I look great in Brown too. I haven’t worn straight up RED much since maybe high school.

  8. PegDown says:

    January 15th, 2013 at 11:41 am (#)

    The previous commenters missed a big point. Attractiveness, especially female attractiveness, is not just subjective, it’s cultural. Any test in the U.S. or perhaps in any western culture, will yield EXACTLY the same result. Red is the color of sex here. There’s absolutely NO surprise that men like this color on women! Go to an eastern culture, and it’s guaranteed that the results would change.

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