Man dressed in red perceived as being more aggressive, study finds

Colour of a male's clothes helps determine the way he is perceived by people, study finds

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 17 May, 2015, 3:44am
UPDATED : Sunday, 17 May, 2015, 3:44am


According to a new study, most of us think men dressed in red look more aggressive, dominant and angry than if they are clad in grey or blue.

The research was published last week in Biology Letters.

Red has long been associated with aggression and competitive success in animals including humans.

The research team, led by anthropologist Diana Wiedemann, of Durham University in England, points out that male zebra finches with red leg bands get more access to resources than their un-banded counterparts and some monkeys have been known to avoid those people who are wearing red.

Previous studies have shown that wearing red increases a person's chances of winning sports games and is linked to a higher heart rate and higher testosterone levels.

Other studies suggest that competitive athletes wearing red appear more brave, aggressive and dominant to an observer.

To see if the colour red affects our perception of a man's personality traits in a neutral, non-competitive setting, the researchers digitally altered the T-shirt colour on 20 pictures of men. Each man's shirt was rendered in red, blue and gray.

Next, the researchers showed the pictures to 50 male and 50 female volunteers and asked them to rate the pictures on a seven-point scale for how aggressive the person in the picture appeared, as well as how dominant he looked. They also asked the participants to note whether the men looked angry, happy, frightened or neutral. Both men and women were more likely to say that a man in a red shirt appeared to be angrier than when he was wearing a blue or gray shirt. They also agreed that men in red looked more aggressive.

The perception of dominance, however, seems to be in the eye of the beholder. Women were not inclined to see a man dressed in red as any more dominant than when he was dressed in blue or grey. Men, on the other hand, overwhelmingly rated other men in red as more dominant.

The researchers say they would like to investigate this gender difference further to see if it reflects the different biases in social perceptions among men and women.

They also note that there was no difference in the perception of anger, aggression and dominance in men who were wearing grey or blue.