"The Lady in Red" is famous in movies, books and music, but men in red turn out to be just as alluring, according to a new study that found men who wear red are more attractive and sexually desirable to women.
(Boston Red Sox- Sexy Advantage? Credit: Sam Smith)
According to lead author Andrew Elliot, a professor of psychology at the University of Rochester, “We found that women view men
in red as higher in status, more likely to make money and more likely
to climb the social ladder. And it’s this high-status judgment that
leads to the attraction."
(Power Tie: Credit: Kevin Rosseel)
Red appears to signal rank in virtually all cultures. The researchers point out that China, Japan and sub-Saharan Africa populations have all tied red to prosperity and elevated status. In ancient Rome, the most powerful citizens were called "the ones who wear red." Today, we roll out the red carpet for special guests.
The meanings tied to red have biological roots, the scientists believe. In non-human primates, such as mandrills and gelada baboons, for example, red indicates male dominance. The color is expressed intensely in alpha males, who get the most mating action.
women see red it triggers something deep and probably biologically ingrained,” explains Elliot. “We say in our culture that men act like
animals in the sexual realm. It looks like women may be acting like
animals as well in the same sort of way.”
For the study, he and his team analyzed how 288 female and 25 male undergraduates responded to various images testing how the test subjects perceived colors, and others who wore them. All of the participants self-identified as heterosexual or bisexual.
experiments, the shirt of a man featured in the photographs was digitally
colored either red or another color. Participants rated the pictured
man’s status and attractiveness, and reported on their willingness to
date, kiss, and engage in other sexual activity with the person. They
also rated the man’s general likability, kindness, and extroversion.
The researchers found that the red effect was limited to status and
romance. Red made the man seem more powerful, attractive, and sexually
desirable, but did not make the man seem more likable, kind, or
sociable. The effect was consistent across cultures. Undergraduates in
the United States, England, Germany, and China all found men more
attractive when wearing or bordered by red.
The effect was
limited to women. When males were asked to rate the attractiveness of a
pictured male, color made no difference in their responses. (Wonder if red would make a difference to homosexual men? The prediction, I'm guessing, is that it would.)
“We typically think of color in terms of beauty and aesthetics,”
said Elliot. “But color carries meaning as well and affects our
perception and behavior in important ways without our awareness.”
In a prior study, Elliot documented that men are more attracted to women in
red. But the red effect depends on the context. Elliot and others have
also shown that seeing red in competitive situations, such as IQ tests
or sporting events, leads to worse performance.