From an evolutionary standpoint, it turns out the color red is basically a testosterone-charged symbol of macho manlinessPsychology: red enhances human performance in contests. Hill, RA., Barton, RA. Evolutionary Anthropology Research Group, University of Durham, Durham, UK. Nature. 2005 May 19; 435(7040):293.. And studies suggest that since the brain associates red with threat and danger, wearing the color can both inspire confidence in those who wear it and send their opponents scramblingPerception of the color red enhances the force and velocity of motor output. Elliot, AJ., Aarts, H., University of Rochester, Rochester, NY. Emotion. 2011 Apr;11(2):445-9.. So get ready to harness the power of the rojo.
Get Red(y) — The Takeaway
As visual and social creatures, we use the color red to communicate our emotions (blushing at a compliment) and as a signal to gauge our reactions (stay away from fire!). As a symbol of danger, red enhances motor function, likely to prepare the body for possible attackPerception of the color red enhances the force and velocity of motor output. Elliot, AJ., Aarts, H., University of Rochester, Rochester, NY. Emotion. 2011 Apr;11(2):445-9.. Studies suggest seeing red causes a short increase in speed and strength, supporting the notion that the brain associates the color with a need for physical readiness. However, red might actually psyche out humans on the playing field, too. The same studies suggest any energy boost gained from seeing red would be short-lived, and exposure to the color can be counterproductive for skilled motor tasks like team sports. This supports the notion that sports teams who wear red have a greater likelihood of winning (or even bi-winning)Red shirt colour is associated with long-term team success in English football. Attrill, MJ., Gresty, KA., Hill, RA., et al. School of Biological Sciences, University of Plymouth, Plymouth, UK. Journal of Sports Sciences. 2008 Apr; 26(6):577-82..
When it comes to mental tasks, because red is likely associated with danger and failure (think back to those exams gloriously covered in red ink), people often perform worse on tests after seeing it. There’s even evidence that because red inspires caution in those who see it, people will eat less when food is served on a red plate as opposed to a more neutral colored plateThe color red reduces snack food and soft drink intake. Genschow, O., Reutner, L., Wanke, M. University of Basel, Department of Social and Economic Psychology. Appetite, 2012. Epub ahead of print.. Still not on Team Red? Wearing red can also reinforce feelings of dominance and increase self-confidence, increasing motivation to work toward success. So hey, wearing a bit of eye-popping rouge could catch the eye of that special someone!
Wear more red to stay ahead of the competition thanks to its effect on the brain.
Updated February 2012.