What other women think of a woman in red: she's hot for sex, and may be a love rat
Someone wearing a dress of that colour seen as more open to sex and thus a rival, study finds
Wearing red doesn't only draw attention from members of the opposite sex, but can also provoke sexual rivalry in women, researchers say.
A study claims that a woman wearing red sets off "mate-guard" impulses in other women, and that a woman is less likely to introduce a woman wearing red to her partner.
"Certain colours may affect how people perceive us," said Adam Pazda a researcher at the University of Rochester, who collaborated with researchers from Trnava University in Slovakia and the Slovak Academy of Sciences on the study, published the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. "It's very useful to know what messages you're sending off."
In one experiment, female volunteers were shown an image of a woman, judged to be "moderately attractive", wearing a strapless dress that was digitally coloured either red or white. They were asked to assess the woman, based on the picture, on whether she was interested in sex. The women shown the red-dress photo judged the woman as more sexually receptive.
"Sexual receptivity and promiscuity are closely related concepts, and suggesting that other women are promiscuous may be a strategy for undermining their mate value," the study said.
The women were then asked to imagine they were competing with the woman in the photo for the attention of an attractive man.
They were asked to answer on a sliding scale from "yes, definitely", to "no, not at all", whether they thought the woman in the photo would cheat on a man or whether she thought the woman had money.
Those presented with the photo of the woman in red were significantly more inclined to say that she would be unfaithful. The woman in red's financial success was seen as less of a threat, the study concluded.
Scholars are unsure whether social conditioning leads us to perceive women in red as potently sexual, or whether biology inherently makes us associate red with sex, linked with the blushing of skin during sexual excitement. Many believe it to be a combination of both.
The study authors said that the fact that the red dress was compared with a white dress may be problematic, since white was a colour we were socially conditioned to associate with virginity.
So in another test, women were shown photos of a woman in a red shirt or a green shirt. They rated the woman in red as more sexually receptive.
Researchers were careful to highlight that "not all women displaying red were necessarily signalling sexual receptivity".
Pazda's study shows a tendency for women to be treated or perceived, by both women and men, as open to or seeking sexual advances based merely on a colour they are wearing.
"You might be seen to be sending the signal that you're on the sexual prowl," he said.