More female research. This time the lady is in red and may or may not be sporting a ponytail. Dr. Adam Pazda, published a study in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology hypothesizing that men find women wearing red sexy.
Pazda and his team summed up their work in the paper’s introduction: ► Men perceive women in red as sexually receptive. ► Men perceive sexually receptive women as attractive. ► Perceived sexual receptivity is responsible for the red-attraction link.
According to Pazda, females using red can be traced as early as 10,000 BC when women put red in lipstick and rouge to mimic the blush of excitement. The sexually-active parts of town are well known as the red light districts, and let’s not pretend Mrs. Claus isn’t the red-hot, sugar-mama of jolly ole St. Nick! Have you ever seen her not wearing red? Wonder Woman wears red and Jessica Rabbit, the cartoon femme fatale that drove Roger Rabbit to high levels of insanity, is sheathed in a red dress.
The biology of red and females is well studied too. During ovulation, women’s skin tone lightens and blood flow is enhanced. Female non-human primates often display red during the mating process; think of the red bottom on the baboon (ew). Just like in the animal world, women display red in their skin tones during ovulation. They are signaling it’s time to have sex and make a baby!
Dr. Andrew Elliot, of The University of Rochester, has conducted several studies on males attraction to females wearing red; however, Elliot has not looked at the psychological process behind the red effect. Pazda’s team did. Pazda hypothesized that the male perception of sexual receptivity is the link between the female in red and the male’s attraction to her.
Pazda conducted two experiments to test his hypothesis that men perceive women in red as sexually receptive and therefore attractive. Further, the experiments tested if red had any influence on men’s assessment of women’s kindness and intelligence. In both experiments men were shown one of two pictures of a woman, in one picture she is wearing a red shirt and in the other a different colored shirt. The woman was the same in each picture and the shirt was the same, only the shirt color had been changed using Photoshop. Participants were told the experiment was about first impressions.
Experiment 1: 2 parts
Experiment 1a asked 25 males ranging in age from 22-40 to view a picture for five seconds of a woman wearing either a red shirt or a white shirt, and then complete a questionnaire on whether or not they thought the woman was sexually receptive and attractive. There was an overall higher rate of attraction to the female wearing the red shirt and a higher perception of the red-shirt wearing woman to be more sexually receptive.
Experiment 1b asked 22 males, ages 19-40 to also view one of the two pictures for five seconds, but then read a brief scenario about the person and complete a questionnaire. The scenario offered two possibilities of either a high or low sexual receptivity:
High: “imagine the woman in the picture is at a bar for the evening. She is
acting flirtatiously, and her body language is sexy and seductive, seeming to indicate that she is interested in the possibility of having sex tonight.”
Low: “imagine the woman in the picture is at a bar for the evening. She is
acting reserved, and her body language is stern and rigid, seeming to indicate that she is not interested in the possibility of having sex tonight.”
The participants were asked to rate the attractiveness of the woman and how likable or unlikeable she seemed. What the research team found is that again, there was a high perception rate of the red-shirt wearing woman to be more sexually receptive and more attractive. However, shirt color made no difference on how the men scored the female’s likeableness.
Pazda’s team concluded that the color red played an important role in determining the man’s perception of a woman’s sexual receptiveness and thus increased his attraction to her. But, it played no role on how men perceive the kindness and likeableness of women.
In experiment 2 the contrasting color was green instead of white. Forty-nine men ages 18-33 were shown a picture of a woman wearing either a red or a green shirt. The men were then asked to answer a questionnaire measuring: How attractive do you find this person? How much do you find this person sexually desirable? How kind is this person? How intelligent do you think this person is?
Again, the woman in the red shirt was perceived as more sexually receptive and more attractive, while color played no role in how kind or intelligent the men perceived the woman to be. Interestingly, in the discussion section, Pazda notes that these results are more likely short-term findings as men do not find women displaying sexual receptivity appealing in potential long-term mates. That’s just confusing and fits in with the old adage of men wanting June Cleaver in the kitchen and Jenna Jameson in the bedroom.
Pazda believes their research could have an impact on fashion designers, marketers and advertisers. He’s not far off the mark there as the Fall 2011 fashion trend was red. And, stars aren’t taking their glam stroll down the white carpet. I’m sure the vulture industry of marketers and advertisers have their Google alerts set for any article discussing what excites men and women and are hard at wok finding ways to incorporate the information into ads.
I found the paper engaging and interesting up to the point when Pazda warned: “Women may need to be judicious in their use of red clothing. Wearing red may be a subtle, yet powerful way to communicate sexual interest to a targeted male, but in public settings replete with eager male receivers, a red signal may result in unwanted sexual advances.” Oh, yeah? Well don’t tell me what to wear, dad! Now, give me the keys to your shiny red car and don’t wait up!