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The power of RED

Updated: Jan 6, 2021

With Valentines Day around the corner red is everywhere and not just on the ideograph heart that adorns every stuffed animal and hallmark card. It’s the roses you buy her, the box of chocolates you buy him, the balloon you bought the kids. But why red? Why has red associated its self with love? How about all the other feelings red has in its reputation. Studies have been done to show reds connection to dominance, confidence and even time.

Does wearing red give you an edge for dominance in competitive situations?

Red has a history of being deeply rooted in the human psyche. It aroses an array of emotions from love to danger. Scientists wanted to further study the power of color perception associated with red, particular its relationship to dominance. Researchers compared the outcomes of the 2004 Olympic combat sports- they found surprising results. During Tae Kwon Do matches the two opponents are randomly assigned a red or blue uniform. If color did not affect the outcome of the matches there would be a relatively even division of red and blue winners. However, the results of the matches indicated red competitors won nearly 2/3 more than blue competitors. Further insight into similar studies showed that referees may be biased towards red adorned competitors. Footage of a match in which the red sportsman won, was digitally altered to reverse the uniform colors. The color of the uniforms, in these studies, is the independent variable. Referrers were asked to watch the footage and determine the winner. A majority of the judges determined that the red competitor (who was originally the losing blue opponent) earned the most points. The outcome of the fights represents the dependent variable. Color signals are manipulating the way the referees perceive the competitors. Overall the color the athlete was wearing gave him or her an advantage through the referee’s bias. It would be interesting to see if wearing red could give someone an advantage in a non-contact scenario such as a debate or election.

Why would wearing red make you a winner?

Dr. Ian Greenles from the University of Chichester performed an experiment to determine the effect of red on the physiology of soccer players. He hoped to gather a better understanding of how the color red improves a team’s chance of winning. 32 penalty takers ad 14 goal keepers were gathered for the experiment. They were then divided into red, blue and white uniforms and asked to shoot penalty shots. The penalty points were not in question and the players were unaware that their uniforms were the base of the study. Once again, the color of the uniforms is the independent variable. Saliva samples were taken before and after the soccer game and heart rate monitors were applied to all participants. The saliva samples tested the hormone levels of testosterone and cortisone serving as the dependent variable in this study. Testosterone is related to feelings of dominance while cortisone indicates levels of stress. Researchers attempted to determine if wearing red could make you feel stronger or if seeing red would make a person feel threatened. The results showed little to no difference in players testosterone levels indicating that wearing or seeing red does not make you feel more aggressive. However, there was indications of varying results of cortisone levels between red and blue or white penalty takers. Results indicated that red wearers had an increase in confidence which suppressed their cortisone levels. The results would lead researchers to believe that any individual wearing red may feel an increase in confidence and decrease in stress.

Can colors change our sense of time?

Neuroscientist set out to determine if color can change a person’s sense of time. To perform this experiment, they set up three ‘color pods’, red, blue and white, at science museum. The red and blue pods in this experiment represent the independent variable. The white pods are the control. 150 people ranging in gender and age were asked to stand inside of an individual color pod. They were instructed to face the wall and turn around when they believed a minute had passed. The concept of one-minute is the dependent variable. The research conductor’s hypothesized that the anxiety caused by the color red would make time feel faster. On the contrary, the results of the experiment showed that red slows the concept of time. In contrast, one minute in a blue pod lasted elevon seconds shorter when compared to red. Neuroscientists suspect this slow down of time is due to how red alters our state of mind causing arousal and increase attention.

Do You See What I See? The Science of Color Perception


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