Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Color red increases the speed and strength of reactions

Date:
June 2, 2011
Source:
University of Rochester
Summary:
When humans see red, their reactions become both faster and more forceful. And people are unaware of the color's intensifying effect, according to a new study.

What links speed, power, and the color red? Hint: it's not a sports car. It's your muscles.
Credit: IKO / Fotolia

What links speed, power, and the color red? Hint: it's not a sports car. It's your muscles. A new study, published in the journal Emotion, finds that when humans see red, their reactions become both faster and more forceful. And people are unaware of the color's intensifying effect.

The findings may have applications for sporting and other activities in which a brief burst of strength and speed is needed, such as weightlifting. But the authors caution that the color energy boost is likely short-lived.

"Red enhances our physical reactions because it is seen as a danger cue," explains coauthor Andrew Elliot, professor of psychology at the University of Rochester and a lead researcher in the field of color psychology. "Humans flush when they are angry or preparing for attack," he explains. "People are acutely aware of such reddening in others and it's implications."

But threat is a double-edged sword, argue Elliot and coauthor Henk Aarts, professor of psychology at Utrecht University, in the Netherlands. Along with mobilizing extra energy, "threat also evokes worry, task distraction, and self-preoccupation, all of which have been shown to tax mental resources," they write in the paper. In earlier color research, exposure to red has proven counterproductive for skilled motor and mental tasks: athletes competing against an opponent wearing red are more likely to lose and students exposed to red before a test perform worse.

"Color affects us in many ways depending on the context," explains Elliot, whose research also has documented how men and women are unconsciously attracted to the opposite sex when they wear red. "Those color effects fly under our awareness radar," he says.

The study measured the reactions of students in two experiments. In the first, 30 fourth-through-10th graders pinched and held open a metal clasp. Right before doing so, they read aloud their participant number written in either red or gray crayon. In the second experiment, 46 undergraduates squeezed a handgrip with their dominant hand as hard as possible when they read the word "squeeze" on a computer monitor. The word appeared on a red, blue, or gray background.

In both scenarios, red significantly increased the force exerted, with participants in the red condition squeezing with greater maximum force than those in the gray or blue conditions. In the handgrip experiment, not only the amount of force, but also the immediacy of the reaction increased when red was present.

The colors in the study were precisely equated in hue, brightness, and chroma (intensity) to insure that reactions were not attributable to these other qualities of color. "Many color psychology studies in the past have failed to account for these independent variables, so the results have been ambiguous," explains Elliot.

The study focused exclusively on isometric or non-directional physical responses, allowing the researcher to measure the energy response of participants, though not their behavior, which can vary among individuals and situations. The familiar flight or fight responses, for example, show differing reactions to threat.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Rochester. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Elliot, Andrew J.; Aarts, Henk. Perception of the color red enhances the force and velocity of motor output. Emotion, Vol 11(2), Apr 2011, 445-449

Cite This Page:

University of Rochester. "Color red increases the speed and strength of reactions." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 June 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110602122349.htm>.
University of Rochester. (2011, June 2). Color red increases the speed and strength of reactions. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110602122349.htm
University of Rochester. "Color red increases the speed and strength of reactions." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110602122349.htm (accessed April 25, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Friday, April 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Could Marijuana Use Lead To Serious Heart Problems?

Could Marijuana Use Lead To Serious Heart Problems?

Newsy (Apr. 24, 2014) A new study says marijuana use could lead to serious heart-related complications. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Study Says Most Crime Not Linked To Mental Illness

Study Says Most Crime Not Linked To Mental Illness

Newsy (Apr. 22, 2014) A new study finds most crimes committed by people with mental illness are not caused by symptoms of their illness or disorder. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Smaller Plates And Cutlery Could Make You Feel Fuller

How Smaller Plates And Cutlery Could Make You Feel Fuller

Newsy (Apr. 22, 2014) NBC's "Today" conducted an experiment to see if changing the size of plates and utensils affects the amount individuals eat. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Do We Get Nicer With Age?

Do We Get Nicer With Age?

Newsy (Apr. 22, 2014) A recent report claims personality can change over time as we age, and usually that means becoming nicer and more emotionally stable. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins