Researchers at the University of Rochester, led by Andrew J. Elliot, PhD, carried out five experiments to see if what they call the "red-sex link" was for real.
The participants were undergraduate students whose average age was about 20.
In the first experiment, photos of women with white or red backgrounds were presented to male students. Women's photos with a red background were judged to be more attractive than those with a white background.
The second experiment involved both male and female students. Although male students found a woman's image on a red background more attractive than a white background, the female students did not.
In the next three experiments, male students were shown pictures of women on a red or different-colored background (gray, green, or blue) and asked to rate how attractive the women were.
The participants were also asked questions that went a little deeper, such as are you sexually attracted to this woman?
The women in red scored higher in being attractive and being sexually attractive; men also said they would spend the more money on the women in red than those in other colors.
It seems that color -- red or otherwise -- did not play a role in how likable, kind, or intelligent men perceived the women in the photos to be.
"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," Elliot says in a news release. "It's fascinating to find that something as ubiquitous as color can be having an effect on our behavior without our awareness."
However, researchers write in an article presented with the findings that the "red-sex link" could be solely societal conditioning.
Red has long been associated with love, lust, and desire in history and literature. Images of the "red-light" district, red Valentine's hearts, and more come to mind. And as far back as ancient Egypt women have painted their lips red to appear more attractive.
The study is published online in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
By Kelley Colihan
Reviewed by Louise Chang
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