Psychology: red enhances human performance in contests

Nature. 2005 May 19;435(7040):293. doi: 10.1038/435293a.


Red coloration is a sexually selected, testosterone-dependent signal of male quality in a variety of animals, and in some non-human species a male's dominance can be experimentally increased by attaching artificial red stimuli. Here we show that a similar effect can influence the outcome of physical contests in humans--across a range of sports, we find that wearing red is consistently associated with a higher probability of winning. These results indicate not only that sexual selection may have influenced the evolution of human response to colours, but also that the colour of sportswear needs to be taken into account to ensure a level playing field in sport.

MeSH terms

  • Aggression / physiology
  • Aggression / psychology
  • Clothing / psychology*
  • Color*
  • Competitive Behavior / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Sports / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Sports / psychology*