Naturally, when humans think of romance, the color red is the common denominator. Think about it for a second, that red box of chocolates, the stuffed teddy bear holding a red heart, those red roses. Is this a coincidence? Our human eyes can see around 10,000,000 (10 million) different colors. When going shopping for things like clothes, make-up, and shoes there are a plethora of options for us to chose from. If you are a guy, can something so minuscule like the color of your shirt, tie, or shoes make you more attractive to the opposite sex? Similarly, for women, could the color of your lipstick, dress, or purse make you more attractive to men? That was the question that psychologists Andrew J Elliot and Daniela Niesta tried to answer.
Personally, when I first thought about this question I thought that there was no way that I would be more attracted to a woman wearing a red dress rather than a white dress. This idea seemed so farfetched to me. In this case, the null hypothesis would be that a red tie or red lipstick does not make individuals more attractive to the opposite sex. The alternative hypothesis would be that the color makes you more attractive. Scientists can chose to either accept the null hypothesis which basically says that nothing is going on, or they can reject the null hypothesis.
A study was conducted by researchers and psychologists at the University of Rochester that tried to figure out if red made people more attractive. They conducted five different experiments with five different groups of participants. The first experiment was a double blinded randomized controlled trial where participants were asked to rate the attractiveness of a black and white picture of a woman on red and white backgrounds on a scale of 1-9 with 9 being very attractive. Participants had no idea what the study was about until they arrived to partake in it. When they arrived, they were only told that the study was about first impressions of women. 27 males were split amongst two groups where one group viewed a black and white picture of a woman with a white background while the other group viewed the same picture with a red background. A standardized manila folder was placed on the table and the groups were asked to pick up the folder and look at the picture for five seconds while the researcher turned around. Following the five seconds, they put the picture down and were asked a number of questions including how attractive they thought the woman was. This study was double blinded because the participants had no idea what the actual purpose of the study was and researchers had no idea what color the participants were looking at.
Experiment number two included doing the same experiment again with both men and women. While additional experiments included a double blinded randomized controlled trial of a woman wearing a red shirt and a blue shirt and participants were asked different questions like would they ask the woman on a date and if they had a hundred dollars, how much would they spend on a date in intervals of ten dollars.
The results of the study absolutely shocked me. In the first study where 27 males were split amongst two groups and showed pictures with different backgrounds, the red background achieved a perceived attractiveness of around 7.5 on a scale of 9, while the woman on the white background achieved a score around a 6. The p value for this was one percent. The participants were also asked on a scale of 1-9 how the color, facial expression, and clothing of the woman influenced how attractive the woman was. Color was ranked as the least important factor. What made the results so shocking to me was the fact that both groups looked at the same exact woman! Yet, their results were dramatically different.
The second experiment which was the same experiment but included women in addition to men looking at the picture of a woman on different background colors, showed that the gender played a major role in attractiveness. The men yet again found the red background to be more attractive while the woman actually thought that the woman with the white background was more attractive.
The last experiment which dealt with 23 males looking at a picture of a woman wearing a blue shirt and a red shirt, showed the correlation between the color red and attractiveness yet again. Additionally, the participants said that they would spend around 25 more dollars on a date with the woman wearing red. Again, the woman in the pictures was absolutely identical with the color of her shirt being photoshopped as the only exception.
Later on, the same researchers conducted a separate study where the focus was on if women found men to be more attractive if they were wearing red and the results showed that the color made the males more attractive.
My initial response to the results was why are we as humans more attracted to the color red? After doing some research online, I found that the reason why we are more attracted to the color red was subconscious and possibly due to evolution.
I thought that the studies were conducted fairly well. I really liked how the researchers used the double blind approach and did not tell their participants the true purpose of the study. The p values were also one percent which showed that chance played a minimal role. The sample sizes were fairly small and it would be interesting to see if the results were different with 500 people instead of 27.
Elliot, Andrew J., and Daniela Niesta. Romantic Red: Red Enhances Men’s Attraction to Women (2008): 1150-164. Bryanburnham.net. Bryan Burnham. Web. 20 Oct. 2016.
Strain, Daniel. “The Red-Dress Effect.” Science. Science Magazine, 12 July 2013. Web. 20 Oct. 2016.
“Women Attracted to Men in Red, Research Shows.” Rochester News. University of Rochester, 2 Aug. 2010. Web. 20 Oct. 2016.