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Women Attracted to Men Wearing Red

Women Attracted to Men Wearing RedDoes the color you wear influence how attractive you are to the opposite sex?

New research shows that men wearing red appear more powerful, desirable and sexually attractive to women, who aren’t even aware of the effect.

“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,” said Dr. Andrew Elliot, of the University of Rochester, who led the study. 

The color red is highly symbolic in many cultures, associated with wealth, power, courage, sex, passion, and blood.  Red is one of the most common colors used for sports teams and on national flags.  Even today, the authors note, businessmen wear a red tie to indicate confidence, and celebrities and dignitaries are feted by “rolling out the red carpet.”  Along with this learned association between red and status, the authors point to the biological roots of human behavior. In non-human primates, like mandrills and gelada baboons, red is an indicator of male dominance and is expressed most intensely in alpha males. Females of these species mate more often with alpha males, who in turn provide protection and resources.

Eliot and his colleagues enrolled 288 women and 25 men in their study to analyze the effect of the color red.  All were undergraduate students, and all students were asked to describe their sexual orientation.

In several different experiments, the participants viewed photographs of men, either dressed in different colors, or framed with borders of different colors.  The different colors were exactly the same lightness and intensity so that test results could not be attributed to differences other than hue.

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.

Eliot found that the impact of the color red made the man seem more powerful, attractive, and sexually desirable.

However, the color red did not make the man seem more likable, kind, or sociable. In addition, when the male study participants were asked to view and rate the attractiveness of a pictured male, the color of the clothing or border made no difference in their responses.

The effect was seen in undergraduate from several cultures, including the United States, England, Germany, and China.

In addition, in all of the experiments, the women were not aware of the influence of the color red. “When women see red it triggers something deep and probably biologically ingrained,” explains Elliot.

In previous research, Elliot and his team have shown 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.

“We typically think of color in terms of beauty and aesthetics,” says Elliot. “But color carries meaning as well and affects our perception and behavior in important ways without our awareness.”

Eliot’s research will be published in the August edition of the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.

Source: University of Rochester

Women Attracted to Men Wearing Red

Jessica Ward Jones, MD, MPH

APA Reference
Jones, J. (2018). Women Attracted to Men Wearing Red. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 3, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 4 Aug 2010)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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