The sexual symbolism and significance of the color red has long been a part of modern culture, but a new studysuggests it extends beyond the feminine world.
New research published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology indicates that women in the United States, England, Germany, and China all reported finding men wearing red or framed in red as “more sexually attractive” than men in other colors.
Andrew Elliot, a professor of psychology at the University of Rochester, attributes these results in part to the powerful connotation of red.
“We found that women view men in red as higher in status,” Elliot explains. “When women see red it triggers something deep and probably biologically engraned.” Study authors accredit both cultural inclinations and basic biology to this preference for the power color.
The study analyzed responses from 288 female and 25 male undergraduates, all identified as either heterosexual or bisexual. They were presented photographs of men, across seven different experiments. But while researchers noted that red made photographs of men in the study seem more powerful and sexually attractive to those surveyed, the red factor did not enhance perceptions of likeability, kindness, or sociability. Moreover, the effect did not carry over to the men surveyed.
The impression of these results reminds us that at the end of the day, some perceptions go beyond simple opinion – and while men have long been known to find women in red more attractive red more attractive, women may tend to have some of the same thinking.
“Color carries meaning as well and affects our perception and behavior in important ways without our awareness,” says 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.”