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Why you should wear red

Research has shown that wearing red clothes can make women more attractive to men. But do women take advantage of this fact by wearing red when they want to attract a man’s attention?

The color red is strongly linked to desire and attraction. Men are more attracted to women who wear red and it seems that women who want to attract men do so by wearing red. For example, there is evidence that women report wearing red clothes more often during the fertile phase of their menstrual cycle. Women responding to an online survey also reported that they would be more likely to don a red outfit when dressing for a date rather than a non-romantic encounter.

However, scientists are never satisfied until they tackle a question from every angle. How do we know for sure that women prefer to wear red when they go on dates? Daniela Niesta Kayser of the University of Potsdam in Germany, along with collaborators in Munich and the U.S., invited women to visit the lab to participate in a psychology experiment. Interested women received email directions to the lab, along with a photograph of a male undergraduate researcher who would be running the experiment.

Thteam included the photograph in the email so that the women would be able to recognize the researcher when they arrived—at least, that’s what they told the women. In fact, the "researcher" was one of two students from another university whose photographs 20 women had previously rated for attractiveness. One man received an average score of 6.6 out of 9; the other got a score of 3.9 (not so hot).

Half of Niesta Kayser’s volunteers received a photo of the more handsome man, and the other half received a photo of the less attractive student. When the volunteers showed up at the lab, they learned that the researcher they were supposed to meet was unavailable, and so another researcher would be running the experiment. That researcher took a full-body photo of the volunteer. Later, other research assistants, who had no idea what the study was about, pored over the photos and made a note of what each volunteer was wearing. They classified volunteers as wearing red if any part of their clothing, including accessories, was red, pink, or scarlet. Colors less similar to red (e.g., orange, maroon, purple) did not qualify.

Results

Women were more likely to show up to the lab wearing red if they expected to be greeted by the handsome man: 57% of the women who expected to meet the attractive man wore red, but only 16% of the women wore red when they expected to meet the unattractive man.

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