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Friday, June 14, 2024

Gabrielle Ueberroth doesn’t need science to tell her how she feels about the color red.

“It has a negative connotation,” said Ueberroth, a 19-year-old UF psychology sophomore. “When I think of red, I think of ‘The Scarlet Letter.’”

A group of researchers at the University of Rochester in New York set out to determine what women think of red, and their findings suggest the fiery hue rouses romantic rivalry. 

“I would find a girl wearing red the most threatening, even if she isn’t the most attractive,” she said.

The study, published on July 11 in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, used female subjects in three simple experiments.

In the first, the participants were divided into two groups and shown a photo of a woman. One group saw the woman wearing white. The other saw her clad in red. Both were asked to rank, on a scale of one to 100, how sexually receptive the woman pictured was.

The second experiment used the same photos but tacked on a request: It asked participants to pretend they were competing for a man with the woman in the photo.

The third experiment switched the alternative color from white to green. And this time, the test subjects were asked to rank how willing they’d be to introduce their boyfriend to the woman in the photo and how comfortable they would be leaving him alone with her.

The threat was the lady in red. The woman pictured was consistently ranked as more sexual when wearing red versus white or green.

Researchers said these results suggest “some color signals are interpreted similarly across sex.” In layman’s terms? Both men and women find red sexy. Researcher Adam Pazda cautioned, however, that the results were based on words, not actions, and may not apply to all women.

Cultural differences and personal experience could also diminish the study’s real-world applicability,according to Aaron Victoria, head teaching assistant for a UF anthropology course on human sexuality and nature.

“Color plays a significant role in the way we view people, make snap judgments about people, but I think there’s more to it than simply biology,” Victoria said. “There might be cultures where colors and perception of colors are completely different.”

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Brides wear red on their wedding day in Rachel Penumudi’s native India. She said she associates the color with marriage.

“I think it’s a really beautiful color, actually,” said the 19-year-old UF finance sophomore.

[A version of this story ran on page 9 on 7/31/2014 under the headline "Study: the color red rouses romantic rivalry among women"]

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