Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Stop on red: The effects of color may lie deep in evolution

Date:
June 8, 2011
Source:
Association for Psychological Science
Summary:
Almost universally, red means stop. Red means danger. Red means hot. And analyzing the results in the 2004 Olympics, researchers have found that red also means dominance. Athletes wearing red prevailed more often than those wearing blue, especially in hand-to-hand sports like wrestling.

Almost universally, red means stop. Red means danger. Red means hot. And analyzing the results in the 2004 Olympics, researchers have found that red also means dominance. Athletes wearing red prevailed more often than those wearing blue, especially in hand-to-hand sports like wrestling.
Credit: Michael Flippo / Fotolia

Almost universally, red means stop. Red means danger. Red means hot. And analyzing the results in the 2004 Olympics, researchers have found that red also means dominance. Athletes wearing red prevailed more often than those wearing blue, especially in hand-to-hand sports like wrestling.

Why? Is it random? Is it cultural? Or does it have evolutionary roots? A new study of male rhesus macaques strongly suggests it's evolution. "The similarity of our results with those in humans suggests that avoiding red or acting submissively in its presence may stem from an inherited psychological predisposition," says Dartmouth College neuroscientist Jerald D. Kralik, who collaborated on the study with his research assistants Sara A. Khan and William J. Levine, and anthropologist Seth D. Dobson, also at Dartmouth.

Their findings will be published in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

The study involved male rhesus macaques -- a species of Old World monkeys that is sensitive to red, green, and blue -- ranging freely in Cayo Santiago, Puerto Rico. Two human experimenters, one male and one female, entered the monkeys' colony and found isolated males to test. Both people knelt down, placed a Styrofoam tray in front of them, drew an apple slice from their backpacks, held the slice at chest level for the monkey to see, then placed the apple on the trays. Both stood up simultaneously and took two steps back.

The monkey typically went directly to the slice he wanted, ran off, and ate it.

The humans wore T-shirts and caps, whose colors -- red, green, and blue -- were changed in each of four conditions: red on female, green on male; then vice-versa; red versus blue; blue versus green.

The results were striking. The monkeys paid no mind to the sex of the experimenter. Green or blue made little difference to them either. But in the significant majority of cases, they steered clear of the red-clad humans and stole the food from the other tray.

The researchers believe that this aversion to red reflects an evolutionary adaptation. It is no accident, then, that humans know that red means no.

"We -- primates and then humans -- are very visual," Kralik explains. "We are also very social." In both realms, color has important effects, from telling us which food is edible to helping us gauge the emotions of others by the relative redness of their skin. Put the two together, he says, "and we start to see that color may have a deeper and wider-ranging influence on us than we have previously thought."

While we learn what those influences are, the researchers warn the organizers of competitive activities, such as sporting events and even academic exams, to avoid using color "in ways that may unfairly influence people," says Kralik. What they don't say: If you want to scare the pants off your rival, wear bright red.

Article title: Red Signals Dominance in Male Rhesus Macaque


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Association for Psychological Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Association for Psychological Science. "Stop on red: The effects of color may lie deep in evolution." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 June 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110608123002.htm>.
Association for Psychological Science. (2011, June 8). Stop on red: The effects of color may lie deep in evolution. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110608123002.htm
Association for Psychological Science. "Stop on red: The effects of color may lie deep in evolution." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110608123002.htm (accessed August 23, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Airlines on Iceland Volcano Alert

Airlines on Iceland Volcano Alert

Reuters - Business Video Online (Aug. 22, 2014) Iceland evacuates an area north of the country's Bardarbunga volcano, as the country's civil protection agency says it cannot rule out an eruption. Authorities have already warned airlines. As Joel Flynn reports, ash from the eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in 2010 shut down much of Europe's airspace for six days. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Endangered Red Wolves Face Uncertain Future

Endangered Red Wolves Face Uncertain Future

AP (Aug. 22, 2014) A federal judge temporarily banned coyote hunting to save endangered red wolves, but local hunters say that the wolf preservation program does more harm than good. Meanwhile federal officials are reviewing its wolf program in North Carolina. (Aug. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Coal Gas Boom in China Holds Climate Risks

Coal Gas Boom in China Holds Climate Risks

AP (Aug. 22, 2014) China's energy revolution could do more harm than good for the environment, despite the country's commitment to reducing pollution and curbing its carbon emissions. (Aug. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Microbrewery Chooses Special Can for Its Beer

Microbrewery Chooses Special Can for Its Beer

AP (Aug. 22, 2014) Aluminum giant, Novelis, has partnered with Red Hare Brewing Company to introduce the first certified high-content recycled beverage can. (Aug. 22) Video provided by AP
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