In 2008, the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology published a study entitled “Romantic Red: Red Enhances Men’s Attraction to Women.”
The study, conducted by Andrew Elliot and Daniela Niesta of the University of Rochester, found that the color red influenced men’s perception of attractiveness.
Perhaps what some women will find most intriguing is that the color red also seemed to cause men to be more willing to spend money on a date.
The association between the color red and sexual attraction is nothing new. As the Elliot and Niesta say, “The pairing of red and sex in society has a long history that continues to the present.” The real question, for these researchers, is whether red is associated with sex merely because of social contingency or some deeper biological foundation.
Elliot and Niesta conducted five different experiments to test the effect of the color red on physical and sexual attractiveness.
For the first experiment, male college students were shown either a picture of a woman with a red background or a picture of a women with a white background, then asked to rate the attractiveness of the woman. The men who had seen the picture with a red background reported finding the woman more attractive than the men who had seen the same women with a white background.
The second experiment examined whether the results of the first experiment were applicable only to men or to both men and women. The study was conducted the same way as the previous study, except that instead of only testing males, the authors of this study tested both male and female students. The men in this study still considered the woman with the red background more attractive, but the women did not report any significant difference between the two pictures.
Whereas the first two experiments only examined physical attractiveness, the third experiment examined sexual attractiveness as well. In contrast to physical attractiveness, sexual attractiveness refers to “a felt desire to become romantically involved with the target.” The results of this experiment found that not only did men find the woman with a red background more physically attractive, they also found her more sexually attractive.
The fourth study was conducted the same way, except the white background was replaced with a green background. This was to insure that the differences in the perception of physical and sexual attractiveness could not merely be explained by the presence or absence of color. Like in all the previous studies, the men found the woman with the red background more attractive than the woman with the green background.
In the fifth and final study, the woman with a red or green background was replaced by picture of a woman wearing either a red or blue shirt. Along with examining physical and sexual attractiveness, the authors of the study also examined various dating scenarios, such as the willingness to spend money on the woman during a date.
The results of this experiment showed that men found the woman in the red shirt more physically and sexually attractive. They also reported being more willing to ask the “lady in red” out on a date and were more willing to spend money on her during a date.
Elliot, A.J. & Niesta, D. (2008). Romantic Red: Red Enhances Men’s Attraction to Women. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 95, No 5: 1150-1164.