Red! It’s the color of love, lust and passion. Throughout history, red lipstick, the lady in red, even the red-light district have conjured images of sexy sexiness. But the color’s actual influence on our emotions and behavior is complicated, which makes sense when you think about the fact that red is also associated with stop, emergency, and fire.
Scientists have devoted hundreds of pages of research looking at the effects red (as well as other colors) on humans, and what they’ve found is conflicting, confusing, and totally fascinating.
The clinical and social sciences in psychology group at the University of Rochester has done lots of red research. Their studies have shown that red makes you want to avoid certain tasks, but also that women are attracted to men who are pictured on a red background or wearing red clothing (though it had no bearing on the men’s perceived likability, agreeableness, or extraversion). The attraction went the other way as well: the researchers found in another study that red enhanced men’s attraction to women. They also found that just thinking about the word red undermined intellectual performance.
So is wearing red good or bad? To answer that, the most important study is the one that found the context in which we experience red changes how we react to it. Babies shown colored Lego bricks followed by a happy or angry face preferred red when the face was happy, but green with the face was angry. That seems to imply, for example, that we might like red on a lovely woman, but not as the color of the folder containing our final exam.
That would also seem to imply that red might be a great color to wear on, say, a third date, when you’re really hoping for a fourth. Or if you’re wanting to ignite romance or inject some serious energy into your life to launch your 2012! If you’re headed into job interviews or other similarly serious endeavors, perhaps try something more subdued, like blue or green. And if you’re not comfortable wearing red head to toe (which, you know, maybe you shouldn’t be), try some red pants like these J Brand hotties, tempered by this calming blue button down. Stay tuned for more on blue color research!
P.S. If you are all about these red coated pants like I am, you can buy them here at Intermix, where the $238 price tag seems to make more sense than Matches’ $1,355 (but their pic was way better!).