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Health & Sex

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Women Are Attracted to Men in Red

Researchers Say Women May View Men in Red as High Status, Leading to the Attraction

Animal Magnetism

Female undergraduates from the U.S., England, Germany, and China all found that men in the photographs were more attractive when wearing red or bordered by the color.

Males asked to rate attractiveness of a pictured male saw no difference when other colors were used.

When women see red, it triggers something deep and probably biologically engrained,” Elliot says in a news release. “We say in our culture that men act like animals in the sexual realm. It looks like women may be acting like animals as well in the same sort of way.”

In mankind’s non-human genetically close relatives, such as baboons, females have been shown to see red as an indicator of male dominance and this is expressed most intensely in alpha males.

Female mandrills and gelada baboons are more likely to mate with alpha males, which they see as capable of providing resources and protection.

And it’s apparently the same in people.

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

In previous research, Elliot has found that men were more attracted to women in red, but that context also was important. Seeing red in competitive situations, such as sporting events or IQ tests, produced different feelings.

“The influence of red appears to be specific to women’s romantic attraction to men,” the researchers say. “Red did not influence men’s perceptions of other men, nor did it influence women’s perceptions of men’s overall likability, agreeableness, or extraversion.”

The authors say that females may see redness as a characteristic of strength and appeal they’d desire consciously or unconsciously for their children. Red may be seen as a sign of health and vitality.

The study is published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.

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