Psychological study reveals that red enhances men's attraction to women

October 28, 2008
A study by Rochester researchers provides the first empirical support for society’s enduring love affair with red. 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?”. Image: University of Rochester

( -- 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.

"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," said Elliot. "It's fascinating to find that something as ubiquitous as color can be having an effect on our behavior without our awareness."

Although this aphrodisiacal effect of red may be a product of societal conditioning alone, the authors argue that men's response to red more likely stems from deeper biological roots. Research has shown that nonhuman male primates are particularly attracted to females displaying red. Female baboons and chimpanzees, for example, redden conspicuously when nearing ovulation, sending a clear sexual signal designed to attract males.

"Our research demonstrates a parallel in the way that human and nonhuman male primates respond to red," concluded the authors. "In doing so, our findings confirm what many women have long suspected and claimed – that men act like animals in the sexual realm. As much as men might like to think that they respond to women in a thoughtful, sophisticated manner, it appears that at least to some degree, their preferences and predilections are, in a word, primitive."

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.

Although red enhances positive feelings in this study, earlier research suggests the meaning of a color depends on its context. For example, Elliot and others have shown that seeing red in competition situations, such as written examinations or sporting events, leads to worse performance.

The current findings have clear implications for the dating game, the fashion industry, product design and marketing.

To view the full text of the paper, visit the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology Web site at: .

Provided by University of Rochester

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3 / 5 (1) Oct 28, 2008
This really seems a bit unscientific.

I am trying to think, but there isn't really any specific instance in my memory where I was attracted to a woman because of the color of a garment she was wearing. In fact, I can't even think of a time that I was attracted to a woman wearing red; well, there was one, but she was also a red head.

If anything, judging by those women who I have found attractive and what they tended to wear, browns, khakis, and cream colors would seem to be more attractive to me...

It really just depends on who they were doing these tests with.
1 / 5 (1) Oct 28, 2008
Something you can buy for money has only money's worth. But in a relationship I want more than money can buy.
This study is deeply flawed. It doesn't even take into account that 100 bucks is nothing for one person and heaven for another person.
Well, I prefer black garment. :)
not rated yet Oct 28, 2008
Something you can buy for money has only money's worth. But in a relationship I want more than money can buy.
This study is deeply flawed. It doesn't even take into account that 100 bucks is nothing for one person and heaven for another person.
Well, I prefer black garment. :)

True. The $100 question is just retarded.

You know, would you rather spend $100 on one date? or $100 on two dates? That sort of thing. Very flawed question because different people think about money quite differently.

You cannot buy love, and if the only reason someone happens to love you, or want a second date,etc, happens to be because you spent X amount of money on the first date or something else "impressive" like that; well, they really don't love/like you.

The whole concept of this study is just stupid.

I definitely want something money cannot buy, which, as stated, is true love.

Money has never bought anyone true love. Hollywood and Nashville are proof of that.

The color of a garment cannot buy love, and physical attractiveness cannot even really equal love.

4 / 5 (1) Oct 28, 2008
The study may be flawed but the results are well known already so it doesn't much matter.

Red lipstick has a distinct advantage in attracting the opposite sex and for sure the effect is enhanced the more red the red appears.

So pale skin can enhance the effect of the red. Red cheeks red hair all have attractive effects.

Do these attractions outweigh other aspects that also affect ones attractiveness? This study would not indicate that.

Men are attracted to women that look somewhat like themselves men are attracted to women with certain odours - ones that are not too close genetically or too foreign.

There are a plethora of things going on in this attraction game and color is one of them.

What about red hair and red cloths and red lips and red cheeks - I would say too much red starts to cancel out the effect and that saturation has a reverse effect.

Thank goodness, or we would never see women wear anything else.
not rated yet Oct 29, 2008
Its always men that are the subject and acted upon. Has anyone noticed that the average nubile female does not wear red when she is not available? The choice to wear red indicates an emotional state in the female. After watching countless interactions between red wearing females and other males, what other social training does a male need? As to the females not responding to red, there was no attempt at measurement of corresponding negative feelings, a simple extention of the test set questions. This test seems designed to create the conclusion drawn.
not rated yet Oct 29, 2008
I have to agree with jeff and jsylvest on this.

I do take some exception to some of the conclusions. I am a man and I completely aware of the effect red has on womens moods. In fact, what surprises me most of the time is that women seem to unconsciously wear red when they are feeling more amorous, the perfect time for me to step in and show them a good time.

The idea that these findings "confirm what many women have long suspected and claimed %u2013 that men act like animals in the sexual realm" is an odd claim to make. If "women" have concluded that that is how men behave and that is all they have concluded then it shows a complete lack of self reflection on their part. Human behaviour is pretty animal when it comes to sex. Not just male behaviour. I personally wouldn't have it any other way.

The study really needs to ask whether women who are sexually receptive are more likely to wear red. Whether they are consciously choosing to do this, or just working of primitive needs and desires to attract a man into their life :)

One would hope that women are well aware that they ovulate, that their sexual preferences change as this happens, sometimes moving from the rational safe choice of man, to a more risky choice...they must be well aware that they dress differently depending on their moods. One hopes women are aware of these things. Maybe it is down to the level of mental sophistication of the woman...and perhaps, if they were conscious of these things, they would cease to do them and that would be tragic, no!?

The truth is, that men and women are complex being who are both looking for the best possible way to experience each other subjectively. A delicate balancing act. These kind of studies that make conclusion about one sexes behaviour while not evaluating the others part in that behaviour should really be seen for what they sided and unscientific.
not rated yet Nov 18, 2008
What the hell is wrong with you people? How could anyone have thought that it was a good idea to waste time on such a frivolous, superficial research study? Even more puzzling, how could anyone think that writing an article on such a useless study would be a good idea?

Sometimes I wonder about this website...
not rated yet Nov 19, 2008
Why we are especially attracted by red Valentine hearts...


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