The colour red makes men feel more amorous towards women, and the males are unaware of the role the shade plays in their attraction, according to two psychologists.
The study by University of Rochester psychologists published in Oct. 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 the affair of colour red with enduring love.
"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," the expert said.
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.
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 dollars 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.