Seeing red hot: Red boosts men's attraction to women

Ladies, if you want to catch the eye of that special guy, wear red. Leave the green Christmas sweater in the closet, grab the red one instead. So suggests a University of Rochester researchers who added a little color to the study of male-female attraction. From the University of Rochester news release:

A groundbreaking study by two University of Rochester psychologists to be published online Oct. 28 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.
The research provides the first empirical support for society’s enduring love affair with red. From the red ochre used in ancient rituals to today’s red-light districts and red hearts on Valentine’s Day, the rosy hue has been tied to carnal passions and romantic love across cultures and millennia. But this study, said Elliot, is the only work to scientifically document the effects of color on behavior in the context of relationships.

The report summarizes 5 different experiments moving from a manipulation of the background color of photos to changing the color of the clothing itself.

To quantify the red effect, the study looked at men’s responses to photographs of women under a variety of color presentations. In one experiment, test subjects looked at a woman’s photo framed by a border of either red or white and answered a series of questions, such as: “How pretty do you think this person is?” Other experiments contrasted red with gray, green, or blue.
When using chromatic colors like green and blue, the colors were precisely equated in saturation and brightness levels, explained Niesta. “That way the test results could not be attributed to differences other than hue.”
In the final study, the shirt of the woman in the photograph, instead of the background, was digitally colored red or blue. In this experiment, men were queried not only about their attraction to the woman, but their intentions regarding dating. One question asked: “Imagine that you are going on a date with this person and have $100 in your wallet. How much money would you be willing to spend on your date?”
Under all of the conditions, the women shown framed by or wearing red were rated significantly more attractive and sexually desirable by men than the exact same women shown with other colors. When wearing red, the woman was also more likely to score an invitation to the prom and to be treated to a more expensive outing.
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.

So the effect is not related to some wholesome judgment about women who chose red over other colors. The results strongly suggest that there is something in the straight male brain (the study did not control for sexual orientation) that responds to the color red.
Is there any relevance to this? The authors say there are “clear implications for the dating game, the fashion industry, product design and marketing.”
I suspect there would be a point of diminishing returns on the fashion choices. Red every day or in every article of clothing might lose the appeal.
I checked this with my expert consultant on such matters and Mrs. Blogging Professor said women in her women’s group had discussed this phenonmenon long before the psychologists studied the matter.
I wonder what else they know.
To view the full text of the paper, visit the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology Web site at:
The citation is:
Elliot, A.J., & Niesta, D. (2008). Romantic red: Red enhances men’s attraction to women. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 95, 1150-1164.