Red really makes you more attractive

Red doesn't make you attractive

Red is not only considered the color of love, it should actually make people more attractive. At least that's what psychological studies want to find out. Several attempts to confirm the connection have now failed.

It almost sounded too simple to be true: to appear more attractive and desirable, it is enough to slip into a red dress. This is the conclusion the researchers around Andrew Elliott from the University of Rochester came to in a 2008 study.

The explanation for the phenomenon seemed entirely plausible: its biological roots make humans receptive to the signal color. In the animal kingdom, for example, female chimpanzees and baboons signal to the males that they are ready to conceive by coloring the sex region red. Culturally, red also stands for love and passion.

Nice but wrong

The investigation was not the only one that attested that the color had special effects. Men in red should also attract women more strongly and waitresses dressed in red should get more tips.

Everything fits together so nicely, but maybe it's still wrong. As early as 2013, researchers working with Michael Lynn from Cornell University failed to reproduce the tip result. Their waitresses in red T-shirts even received less tips than their black or white colleagues. Female guests also rated the red staff as less attractive.

Color insignificant

For their recently published work, researchers led by Leonard S. Peperkoorn from the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam have tried three times to prove the classic red effect, but they have not succeeded once.

First, 206 heterosexual Dutch men had to assess the attractiveness of women depicted on dating sites and indicate whether they wanted to be intimate with them. The women wore either a red, a white or a black top. Some of the subjects were only interested in a short adventure, others were looking for long-term partners.

But no matter what the conditions: the red color has no influence on the men's decision. In a subsequent survey, they even stated that the color was the least important factor for them. Repeating the experiment with two hundred Americans produced the same sobering result.

The problem of repeatability

In the third attempt, they tried to reproduce the results of another study with a much larger sample. 433 men had to judge the sexual attractiveness of a single depicted woman who was dressed in red or white. The result: The color of the T-shirt had no influence on the judgment, regardless of how old the test subjects were or what relationship status they were in.

The red effect would not be the first psychological phenomenon to fail its examination. Because in recent years the critical voices have become louder and louder: It is said that experiments are rarely or not repeated in psychology. In the meantime, older studies have begun to be reviewed on a large scale, and some hypotheses have already come to grief. According to a study published in Science in 2015, two thirds of all results cannot be repeated.

Even if the authors of the study around Peperkoorn do not completely rule out a red effect. Your work once again makes it clear that individual studies are by no means sufficient to prove a thesis. Without repetition, a result is no more than a guess. They therefore appeal to their colleagues to repeat older studies and also to publish zero results.

Eva Obermüller, science.ORF.at

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